Coronavirus: Mental health inequalities faced by ethnic minority people ‘could become entrenched for years’

The mental health of women and children experiencing violence and abuse is also at great risk, charity warns

Sabrina Barr
Thursday 18 June 2020 13:38
Coronavirus in numbers

Existing mental health inequalities may continue for several years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a charity has warned.

The Centre for Mental Health, an organisation that provides research, economic analysis and policy influence in mental health, has published a report highlighting the impact the Covid-19 crisis has had on mental wellbeing.

In the report, the charity states that while the pandemic has had a “profound effect” on the mental health of people across the nation, certain groups of individuals are at greater risk.

“Groups of people whose mental health is at greatest risk include those with existing mental health problems, people with long-term physical conditions, women and children experiencing violence and abuse, and Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities,” the organisation outlines.

“The combination of existing structural inequalities and the unequal impacts of the pandemic mean that people whose mental health was at greatest risk prior to Covid-19 are likely to bear the brunt of the emergency longer term.”

Health experts recently warned that minority groups are at higher risk of suffering serious illness from Covid-19 and are more vulnerable to poor health policies and actions implemented by national authorities.

In the Centre for Mental Health report, it states that “poverty and financial precariousness, racism and discrimination, and trauma and isolation have all been heightened” in the past several months.

“In testament to the pervasiveness of mental health inequalities, the people who have historically endured the biggest risks for poor mental health and the worst access to and experiences of support are among those now most exposed to the worst of the immediate shock of Covid-19,” it says.

“These same groups will also be the most vulnerable to mental health difficulties longer term, as the pandemic leaves behind an unequal legacy of complicated bereavement, trauma and economic repercussions which will push more people towards financial insecurity and poverty, significant risk factors for poor mental health.”

The report adds that “unequal experiences of grief, loss, trauma, injustice and abandonment all add to the psychological damage caused by Covid-19”.

The authors of the report outline measures it is encouraging the government to take to reduce mental health inequalities.

They write that the government “must prioritise race equality and support trauma-informed approaches for all people whose lives have been affected by Covid-19”.

The authors add that plans to “modernise mental health legislation and invest in community support” should continue “at the earliest opportunity”, while the NHS and local authorities “should work with third sector and community organisations to plan, develop and deliver tailored support for the most marginalised communities”.

Andy Bell, deputy chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said that while the pandemic is “putting pressure on many people’s mental health”, “we are not all in it together”.

“Stark inequalities have already been laid bare by the virus, with higher death rates among people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and among people living in deprived areas,” Mr Bell stated.

“Sadly, we can expect to see the same with the mental health impacts in the months and years to come.”

Mr Bell added that the government has a chance to “put mental health equality at the heart of its plans to help the nation to recover from Covid-19”.

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