In this guest blog for World Mental Health Day, Sandra Griffiths talks about how Time to Change is reaching out to people from African and Caribbean communities to help end stigma and get people talking about mental health.
From October 10 to November 23, Time to Change, England’s biggest mental health anti-stigma programme run by charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, will host a 6-week national marketing campaign with additional activity targeting people from African and Caribbean communities to help end mental health stigma and discrimination.
Exploring the theme ‘forget the label... just listen’, this will include events to facilitate social contact, which creates opportunities to learn from someone with a personal experience of mental illness, as well as radio partnerships and advertisements on buses and in washrooms in Birmingham.
Commissioned by Time to Change in partnership with the London Borough of Lambeth and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, the campaign activity will be launched in Lambeth on October 10 and Birmingham on October 16. Partnership work is key to the success of the marketing campaign and is based on a pilot that Time to Change ran in January with the Rafiki project and East London Hopefuls in London, COPE in Birmingham and the African Health Policy Network.
The London launch will be at Lambeth Town Hall and will feature presentations from Time to Change director Sue Baker, Lambeth Councillor Jacqui Dyer and Dr Colin King, founder of the Black and Asian Coaches Association.
Meanwhile, the Birmingham launch will take place at intercultural arts centre The Drum, and feature BBC Radio WM’s Nikki Tapper, Birmingham City Council's mental health champion councillor Paulette Hamilton and Reverend Deborah Harrison, founder of the Gospel Express Academy. Arts and crafts stalls, barbering activities, a pampering zone featuring massage and nail treatments and short film screenings will also feature.
Internationally-acclaimed spoken word artist Jean Binta Breeze, who has agreed to be a mental health champion as someone who has used mental health services, will also perform at both events. Time to Change champions from African and Caribbean communities will also speak out about their personal experiences of mental health problems.
Also for this campaign about 60 Time to Change volunteers are being recruited in London and Birmingham. Some volunteers will distribute specially-created leaflets and have conversations with people in diverse locations, from nightclubs and churches to hair salons, sporting events and community businesses. Having face-to-face conversations is one of the most powerful ways to challenge negative stereotypes and can help to change attitudes in communities.
Tailored events promoting mental health awareness in London and Birmingham are expected to attract more than 2,000 people, with volunteers making contact and engaging in thousands of stigma-challenging conversations. It is important for people to hear and listen to their stories. Their strengths and assets will be highlighted to show that mental illness is just one part of who they are.
This activity aims to reach and engage with African and Caribbean audiences who are not close to mental health issues, or may know someone with mental health problems in the community, but doesn’t know what to say to them. They will be encouraged to make a pledge, host an event, start their own conversation, or just listen to one.
Taking the time to listen cannot be underestimated, particularly in light of the continued over-representation of people from African and Caribbean communities in mental health statistics. More than 90% of people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities with mental health problems face discrimination because of their condition.
Nationally, black men are 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious mental health illness than their white counterparts. Yet the National Centre for Social Research states that African and Caribbean people do not have a higher prevalence of mental ill health than any other ethnic group.
This campaign is trying to break through the taboo and stigma to show that everyone can a play their part by making time to be there for someone going through a difficult time. People in the community can feel uncomfortable around someone with mental health problems, a reality which has to be tackled.
Unless we start listening to people with mental health problems when they most need it, we are never going to improve the mental health of African and Caribbean communities.
Sandra Griffiths is the campaign lead, African and Caribbean audiences, at Time to Change.
To find out about more about the events being run and how you can get involved, visit www.time-to-change.org.uk/forgetthelabel.
You can follow the campaign on Twitter @timetochange and the hashtag #timetotalk.