Ethnicity, gender and mental health

This paper reports on primary research that focused on men from specific black and minority ethnic (BME) groups. The project aimed to provide a better understanding of the men’s beliefs about mental health and their experiences of mental health services. The paper presents key findings and issues in interpreting the experiences of BME groups. It considers the complexities of men’s gendered identities and the interplay of these with ‘race’, ethnicity and cultural influences. Twelve focus groups, each consisting of men from specific BME groups, were convened in various locations in London and the West Midlands. The ethnic groups were as follows: two African-Caribbean groups, two African groups, two Indian groups, two Pakistani groups, two Bangladeshi groups and two Chinese groups. The findings include BME men’s narratives of well-being, which highlight the importance of relational and normative aspects and the influences of gender and ethnicity on aspirations, identity and values. Factors contributing to mental illness relate to gendered and racialised social expectations, economic factors, generational and gender issues, and experiences of services. The paper concludes that a complex mix ofgendered and racialised experiences, including social stigma, the coercive power of institutions, and men’s own perceptions of services, and vice versa, can contribute to cycles of disengagement and isolation for marginalised BMEmen with mental health problems. Specific recommendations are made for breaking out of the cycle. For research, it is suggested, the priority should now turn to identifying and assessing initiatives that address the issues, and in particular,identifying models of support towards recovery.

Author(s): Mark Robinson, Frank Keating, Steve Robertson

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