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The need for a different approach

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Video transcript

Obi: We also have an evidence base that suggests many young Black men mistrust mental health services and practitioners because of particularly bad previous experiences. These bad experiences are not always their experiences, but can be the experiences of a loved one. Mistrust of a system in the community usually results in young Black men who do access services, accessing them on their own, without guardians present or knowing. 

Saf: At times, crisis workers are the first professionals we engage for support with our mental health. This means that there won’t be a support network, which usually includes GP services, or community mental health support in place when we access crisis services or get discharged.

Obi: It is not enough to send us off with leaflets hoping someone else is going to pick up the responsibility or provide the required care.

Saf: This sometimes puts more pressure on crisis workers, or creates a difficult environment for practitioners and service providers to work with you, which makes it even more challenging to build rapport and trusting relationships essential to providing the best services possible.

Obi: With all of what we have said so far in mind, and when coupled with the added complexity that mental health crisis brings, we know that it isn’t easy for practitioners to provide a service that is responsive to the needs of young Black men.

Saf: We do, however, believe that there are practical steps that we can take together to approach working with young Black men.

Obi: Over the last few years at 42nd Street, we have seen an increased willingness from young Black men and the communities that they are a part of to access mental health support. There is a shared desire to normalise conversations around mental health and to see change around the attitudes towards early intervention as a prevention against mental health crisis. We hope this guide will provide you with some valuable context that can be used when working with young Black men.

Saf: Additional Crisis Tool guides will walk you through some of the challenges that young Black men face in accessing crisis support, what services and practitioners need to know and top tips when supporting us.


From the videos above, we know that young Black men are less likely to access crisis care services due to some of the reasons shared by young men we consulted. When we do access crisis support, crisis workers are sometimes our gate into receiving mental health support or the only support we have for our mental well-being instead of service reserved for severe mental health distress (Lavis, 2014).

You can support us to access services by taking a different approach.

We recommend that crisis workers spend more time in conversation with us when they see us in their service, listen to our needs and work on building trust and relationships. Be transparent from the first interaction and when meeting us for the first time in your service, ask yourself questions like, ‘are there any other health and social care teams/colleagues who need to be involved in this young person’s care?’, or ‘what other services can I refer/signpost this young person to?’

When signposting to other services, it is essential to introduce us to our primary contact at the new service and fully explain what will happen. If you say you will follow up, please ensure that you do. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep, as this negatively impacts our trust for services. Explain what is going to happen next after signposting. Please don’t assume that we are familiar with how the mental health system works.

Crisis services can support the shift we are seeing in the form of an increased willingness from young Black men and the communities they are a part of, to access mental health support. This can be achieved through encouraging and normalising conversations around mental health, increasing outreach activities in your service, and support calls for early intervention mental health services in your local area, for example, the Young Minds ‘Fund the Hubs’ campaign 

The Young Minds Fund the Hubs campaign ‘calls for a network of hubs across the country, which would provide early support for young people’s mental health when their problems first emerge.’

Key Messages

  • Some challenges and obstacles specifically relate to young Black men accessing mental health support. Cultural, political and personal network influences can impact individuals when needing to reach out.
  • First impressions count. You may be the first health professional a young Black man in crisis has reached out to.
  • Support networks for young Black men are often different than we think. We cannot assume that support networks exist outside of the crisis call.


  • Lavis, P. (2014). The importance of promoting mental health in children and young people from black and minority ethnic communities. Available: (Retrieved 17th February 2022)
  • Young Minds: Fund the Hubs, Available: (Retrieved 22nd February 2022)