Tina Chen, Diversity & Inclusion Outreach Worker, talks about the work she has done with the South Asian community in increase access to our services.
Solent Mind’s Inclusion & Outreach team have been hard at work over the last year in ensuring our services are as accessible as possible to everyone in our community.
In the last week of South Asian Heritage Month, Diversity and Inclusion Outreach Worker Tina has shared about the work she has been doing with the South Asian Community in Portsmouth.
“Portsmouth has a large South Asian community, particularly Bangladeshi and Indian, but we don’t see this same representation among our service users. This shows us that we need to do more at Solent Mind to reach out to this community, hear their voices and give them with support they need for their wellbeing from our excellent services in the Portsmouth area.
From the conversations I’ve had with people working closely with South Asian communities in Portsmouth, it’s clear that they are disproportionately impacted by mental wellbeing issues compared to other groups, but despite this, they are not accessing services and getting the support that they need. This can be for a variety of reasons, mental health is a taboo subject that is not openly discussed in the community, and there is stigma surrounding people with mental health conditions. Religious or cultural beliefs that having a mental health condition can be a sign of weakness also prevent people from seeking help or feeling that they shouldn’t talk to anyone about it. It could even be that they have tried to reach out for help from services but feel that mental health providers either do not understand them because of language barriers, don’t respect their cultural beliefs, or they simply cannot relate to their life experiences and provide the treatment that they need which results in them losing confidence in the mental health care system as a whole.
No matter what the reason is, it is important that we listen to what they are saying about their mental wellbeing and the challenges they face in accessing services for mental health so that we may learn from them and improve our services in Portsmouth to better fit their needs and ensure they feel comfortable to come to us for help. This is a big part of what me and my colleagues on the Impact and Inclusion team do, not just in Portsmouth but across Hampshire.
Since joining Solent Mind and the Impact and Inclusion team, I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet with so many lovely members from the South Asian community, who have shared their personal journey with me and given important insight into the challenges that people in our community face and how Solent Mind can improve our services to provide better support for them. One of the most important things I’ve found is that as an organisation, we should be proactive in seeking out and engaging with the community and talking to them, instead of being passive and expecting them to come to us for support.
One of the most common things I have heard from the South Asian community in Portsmouth is that they don’t have faith in many existing mental health services as they do not understand to their voices and cultural needs, which turns them away from GP practices and larger organisations, and instead they feel more comfortable in smaller local groups. I believe this is where Solent Mind, and health care providers as a whole need to focus on improving, by reaching out to marginalised communities and listening to their feedback without judgement, with the goal of improving health care for all, no matter who they are or where they come from.
I have also been lucky enough to learn from some fantastic organisations who have been supporting the community in Portsmouth for many years, and I really admire how their compassion and personalised support has such a strong impact for the people that use their services. In addition to reaching out to communities to improve our own services, I would also like to foster more collaboration with the local organisations in Portsmouth, as with joint community events and sign-posting for the services available for people in Portsmouth, I believe we will have the greatest impact on improving people's mental health.”
Along with the work from our Outreach & Inclusion team, we would also like to share stories and experiences of mental health from the South Asian community on our platforms.
Jasmine, Solent Mind peer support specialist, shared her story: “I dealt with this by making sure I kept my avenues of communication open with my parents so that they knew what was going on with me – I did not feel shame in doing so and this is one thing I do not regret.
“At times no one really understood me or where I was coming from, but I had hope that if I stay honest and vocal about my mental health, maybe someone out there would stand up and say ‘hey I understand what you’re going through/talking about’.”
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