Inequalities in mental health services for ethnic minorities

Inequalities between ethnic minorities and their white counterparts exist in mental health services, which has led to differences in the way they are treated.

One in four people in the UK will be affected by a mental health problem, yet there is a difference in the way some communities are handled by mental health services.

There is a lack of sufficient research that has been conducted on ethnic minority mental health in the UK, and much of the research is old or based in England.

A lack of data has led to preventing the Scottish Government from taking action.

A report conducted by Race Equality Foundation found that “black and minority ethnic communities have significantly poorer mental health outcomes and poorer experience of services.”

People from minority backgrounds are more likely to be detained compulsorily or placed in seclusion.

It is important to stress that there are different issues that face the various communities and cultures within ethnic minorities. In some research different communities are treated separately as each culture and lifestyle may have different experiences with their mental health.

A study from 2012 found black people, in England, were more likely to be forcibly restrained and are 50% more likely to be diagnosed as psychotic. Those from African or Caribbean descent are 50% more likely to be referred to mental health services by the police than white people.










Image by: Mental Health Today

Within Asian communities age and gender are more prevalent influencers on mental health. Common mental disorders like anxiety and depression, are specifically more prevalent in older Indian and Pakistani women, as well are middle-aged Pakistani men.

There are also some issues which affect mental health that mostly occur in ethnic minority groups, including forced marriage, honour-based violence and female genital mutilation. It is important to note that physical and mental abuse is illegal in the UK and the vast majority of communities condemn any type of violence. Similarly, groups that may be perceived as one community, may have many cultural distinctions within the community. Different practises and languages occur in many large countries and cultures.

Also, these issues are unlikely to affect white people and are less likely to occur in Black communities. Cultural issues such as izzat (honour) and sharam (shame) were often given importance from second generation migrants, as a way of reconciling traditional or religious beliefs with the expectations associated with growing up in the UK.

Despite this there are some instances of these types of abuse happening in Scotland and they will inevitably have effects on the mental health of those suffering.

Evidence has shown that Asian women between ages 15 and 35 are two or three times more likely to self-harm, and they are also more likely to be vulnerable to suicide than their non-Asian counterparts.

Refugees are also likely to struggle with who to contact and the processes of bureaucratic systems.

Scotland has taken in more than a third of the refugee population in the UK yet the mental health support systems to deal with displacement is not appropriate.

Refugees are in a position of having experience trauma that would lead to an impact on their mental health. These will take a form of a whole range of mental health issues such as distress and anxiety and this can lead to depression, psychosis or bipolar disorder. 1 in 5 refugees suffer from mental health problems that could be of clinical concern.

When refugees are then moved from their environment, they are still faced with difficulties that affect their mental health. They are likely to face experiences of racism and a hostile political environment. Not only a confusing bureaucratic system as well as the practical and psychological challenges of starting a new life in a new country, with a new language, culture and systems.

These issues have meant that 1 in 4 people from ethnic minority groups don’t share their mental health problems.

Stigma, cultural issues, discrimination and lack of sufficient research combine to make mental health services an unwelcome place for many communities.


If you or anyone you know is suffering please contact:

Breathing Space:


Women’s Aid:

Shakti Women’s Aid: