A student who experienced ‘culturally incompetent’ mental healthcare has launched an initiative to encourage more Black professionals into the field.
Kelechi Matthias, a psychology student at the University of Warwick, has experienced first hand what it is like to receive counselling from someone who doesn’t truly understand your lived experiences as a minority.
‘The lack of culturally competent care within the mental health service is very much a danger to the Black community,’ Kelechi tells Metro.co.uk.
‘It can often lead to inappropriate, harsher, or even ineffective treatment with Black people being more likely to be detained, sectioned and restrained.’
Kelechi experienced inadequate care from a mental healthcare professional that was only remedied when she was seen by a counsellor from a similar cultural background to herself.
Having a Black therapist made Kelechi feel listened to, understood and seen. So, she founded The Black Mind Initiative to help ensure that more people from Black and minoritized communities can experience mental health support that is more suited to their needs.
People from Black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities have a higher risk of developing mental health conditions than white people – but they are less likely to be able to access mental health services.
Currently, only one in 14 counsellors in the UK are from a Black or other ethnic minority background, and this is what Kelechi is hoping to change.
The Black Mind Initiative aims to reform the current mental health system nationally, by encouraging Black people to take a degree related to the mental health profession. The programme will then support them in their studies and encourage them to work in senior roles in mental healthcare.
The representation of the Black community in mental healthcare is considerably low, and when it comes to leadership roles – such as clinical psychiatrists, psychologists and consultants – there is barely any representation at all.
‘The people in the boardrooms, making the basis for these treatments, neither look like us nor understand us, yet they have the authority to make the decisions most affecting our community,’ says Kelechi.
‘Many organisations make big statements about committing to diversity in the workplace, but if this diversity isn’t being reflected in the boardrooms, then what changes are really being made?
‘This isn’t to downplay the importance of having Black people in other roles in the mental health service, as diversity throughout the workforce is very important. However, having Black people in senior roles means the necessary changes are being made from the top down, which is better for both Black service users and other Black professionals.’
The initiative, run by Kelechi and fellow Black students, is a non-profit organisation that aims to provide the tools for the next generation of mental health professionals, so they can break the cycle of systemic racism within the mental health service.
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