Mental Health Reform launches paper on ethnic minorities and mental health

The national coalition Mental Health Reform has today (10/10/2014) launched a paper highlighting the importance of improving access to mental health services for people from ethnic minority backgrounds, including Travellers.

Launching Ethnic Minorities and Mental Health: a position paper, Mental Health Reform Director Dr Shari McDaid explained: “The government mental health policy A Vision for Change calls for mental health services to be provided in a culturally sensitive way. As Ireland’s population becomes more ethnically diverse, it is important that mental health services meet the needs of the whole community.”

“People from ethnic minority groups have a higher risk of developing severe mental health difficulties such as post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis. In addition, the Traveller community and those from other ethnic minorities are known to be at increased risk of experiencing poverty, social exclusion, racism and discrimination – all factors which may negatively impact on their mental health. This makes it all the more important that the Government and HSE prioritise the mental health needs of these communities, in line with their human rights obligation to pay particular attention to marginalised groups. The HSE should establish a national programme to develop cultural competency among mental health staff in all mental health services, including primary care. The Mental Health Commission, as the regulator of mental health services, should develop standards for cultural competency, working in partnership with ethnic minority groups in Ireland,” Dr McDaid added.

“We have been concerned to hear from those working with ethnic minorities that the mental health needs of these communities are not being fully met.  Language barriers can be a hindrance to good quality mental health care when skilled interpretation services are not available, and staff need to respect different cultural understandings of mental health. Lack of information about services and stigma against mental health difficulties can also prevent people from accessing mental health services,” Dr McDaid continued.

“A real issue of concern is the mental health of asylum seekers who are known to be at higher risk of experiencing post-traumatic stress, and whose living situation in direct provision centres is likely to be increasing their stress. The additional costs of medication and transport can mean that counselling services are very difficult for people in direct provision to access. One of the recommendations of this paper is that the Department of Justice should ensure that staff at direct provision centres are trained in mental health awareness, to help ensure that people living in direct provision get access to the mental health supports they need,” Dr McDaid concluded.


Notes to the Editor

Mental Health Reform is a national coalition of 48 member organisations and promotes improved mental health services and social inclusion of people with mental health difficulties in Ireland.

Ethnic Minorities and Mental Health: a position paper was written by Mental Health Reform following consultation with representatives from ethnic minority groups in Ireland including Cairde, Exchange House, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, iVosta, the Irish Refugee Council, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, New Communities Partnership, Pavee Point, SPIRASI and the Traveller Counselling Service.  The paper is available here.

Speakers at the launch included: Dr Shari McDaid, Director of Mental Health Reform, Nessa Childers MEP, Dr John Hillery, Director of Communications and Public Education, College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, Róisín Thurstan, Health Promotion Coordinator, Michael Collins, Traveller activist and actor and Emilia Marchelewska, Integration Project Leader, Cairde.


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