Why we need more Black psychologists
It is an undeniable fact that the current structure of the mental healthcare system in the UK is failing Black people. ‘Stigma, cultural barriers, and systemic discrimination’ are all factors which lead to the failing of mental health services (Young Black men | Mind, the mental health charity help for mental health problems). Black people are more likely to be forcibly detained (Wessley, 2018) and secluded (Fernando, 2010) when interacting with mental health services. Previous investigations into the deaths of Black mental health patients, such as David Bennet, have highlighted institutional racism as the cause of death (Blofeld et al., 2003). The narrative of Black people being failed by the mental health service isn’t new or surprising considering the colonialist and racists roots of psychology.
There is a severe lack of psychiatrists and psychologists of ethnic backgrounds within mental health professions. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals make up only 9.6 per cent of qualified clinical psychologists in England and Wales, in contrast to 13 per cent of the population (Office of National Statistics, 2018). Furthermore, research by the Health & Social Care Information Centre in 2013 showed that BAME applicants are less likely to meet the selection criteria for doctorate programmes which is a prerequisite for becoming a chartered psychologist in the UK (Scior et al., 2007). Only 2 per cent of the 4 per cent Black/Black British groups who applied to clinical doctorate programmes were accepted, compared to 91 per cent of the 84 per cent of white groups.
The government acknowledges that the gross underrepresentation of Black people in mental health professions leads to lack of cultural competence within the mental health service. The lack of fair and impartial care is a danger for minority communities. An ethnically diverse and representative workforce within psychiatry and psychology professions is imperative for addressing the well-documented unequal clinical outcomes and discriminatory treatment that BAME mental health service users face.
I wanted to write this blog post to highlight the need for Black people in mental health services to encourage any future Black Psychology students to consider taking the clinical route. While there are systemic issues that an individual cannot change, representation matters when we such roles have such meaningful impacts on people’s lives.
Mind.org.uk. n.d. Young Black Men | Mind, The Mental Health Charity – Help For Mental Health Problems. [online] Available at: <https://www.mind.org.uk/aboutus/our-policy-work/equality-human-rights/young-black-men/> [Accessed 10 April 2020].
Wessley, S., 2018. Modernising the mental health act: increasing choice, reducing compulsion: final report of the independent review of the mental health act 1983. Department of Health and Social Care, London.
Fernando, S., 2010. Mental health, race and culture. Macmillan International Higher Education.
Blofeld, J., Sallah, D., Sashidharan, S., Stone, R. and Struthers, J., 2003. Independent inquiry into the death of David Bennett. NSCHA.
Office of National Statistics. (2018). Ethnicity and national identity in England and Wales 2018.
Scior, K., Gray, J., Halsey, R. & Roth, A. (2007). Selection for clinical psychology training: Is there evidence of any bias towards applicants from ethnic minorities. Clinical Psychology Forum, 175, 7-11.