Mental ill health is the largest single cause of disability in the UK, contributing almost 23% of the overall burden of disease. The most common mental illnesses suffered in the UK are anxiety and depression. A range of conditions come under the label of ‘mental ill health’ and there are a range of interventions and treatments: mental ill health cannot be seen as a single problem with a single solution – it affects and is affected by employability, social life, family relationships, and other aspects of health.
- One in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem this year
- Mental health affects different groups differently. Within the African communities, young people, older people and refugees and asylum seekers are particularly at risk
- On the whole, evidence on mental health and African people in the UK tends to come from the acute end of services, such as mental health inpatient units, where The Count Me In surveys (a yearly one day census of mental health inpatient units) have repeatedly shown that black people in general are over-represented.
- The surveys also reveal mental health outcomes to be poorer for black patients in terms of re-admission, over-prescription of medication at the expense of talking therapies, and increased risk of suicide.
Mental health should be a public health priority. The barriers that exist for Africans to access mainstream mental health services mean that there are a variety of settings in which to address mental ill health and promote mental wellbeing, and various policy areas that contribute to a prevention agenda. Recognising the role and potential of the African voluntary sector to provide vital interventions if properly resourced and linked to essential statutory services is essential if mental health in African communities is to be properly addressed.