University of EdinburghPsychiatric and mental health services in Scotland should be reviewed and monitored to ensure all ethnic groups have access to the best preventative care and treatment at an early stage, researchers have said.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh have found that individual ethnic groups use psychiatric and mental health services in Scotland very differently. In addition, the study revealed that there are widely differing patterns of hospitalisation for mental ill health among non-White groups.

The research, published in the journal Ethnicity and Health, is the first of its kind to be carried out in Scotland. All first-time psychiatric hospital admissions for any psychiatric diagnosis between 2001 and 2008 were studied, including all psychiatric disorders, mood disorders (such as depression) and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

Major differences in using services

The findings show that people from some minority ethnic groups may not use mental health services until they are seriously ill.

They also found major differences between ethnic groups in the numbers admitted to hospital for serious mental illness. People from most, but not all, minority groups who needed to go to hospital were significantly more likely to be treated under the Mental Health Act.

The Edinburgh team say that the findings could be explained by difficulties in diagnosing and treating mental illness among minority groups at an early stage within mental health services. It could be explained by a lack of awareness among minority groups of the support services available. The researchers added that people from minority ethnic groups may be reluctant to seek medical help in part because of social stigma.

Dr Narinder Bansal, research fellow at the Centre for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Studying ethnic variations in psychiatric hospital admission enables us to identify and monitor inequalities in mental health care. We hope that this study will inform politicians and doctors’ decisions about how treatment is best delivered and planned for, to ensure equal access to early care. It is vital that mental health services meet the needs of Scotland’s culturally diverse population.”