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How we want to be treated
Akram: Hi, my name is Akram, member of Jet42.
Stuart: My name is Stuart. I’m a young person with lived experience and the co-production coordinator for Healthy Teen Minds.
Saf: And my name is Saf, member of Jet42.
Akram: The purpose of this guide is to provide you with some insight to what young Black men need and expect from mental health crisis services.
Saf: We want to be treated with compassion, respect, empathy, trust and as individuals.
Stuart: Crisis services are supposed to be safe places where we give patients respect and compassion.
Saf: Young people can tell when they are not treated as unique beings, and if the help they’re receiving is not tailored to them and is off the shelf. Young Black men sometimes do not get the benefit of being viewed as innocent, or as young people by society. When you offer them the opportunity to have a friend or family around them, you remind them that they are young, and it is okay to rely on the support from friends and family. Professionals should have an awareness of the impact of factors such as racism, poverty, unemployment, stop and search and knife crime on the impact of young Black men’s mental wellbeing. If a young person mentions any of these as one of the triggers for their mental health distress, believe and support them accordingly.
Akram: It takes a lot for young Black men to acknowledge that they are in a crisis and they need to be spoken to and treated sensitively.
Saf: Vulnerability is not easy and most of us have been taught that it is a sign of weakness. Therefore, it might take longer for young Black men to talk about why they’re experiencing severe mental health distress. Consider using different communication techniques to start the conversation and guide the conversation.
[END OF VIDEO]
Like all young people accessing mental health care, we want to be treated with compassion, respect, empathy, trust, and as individuals.
As mentioned in the Barriers to Access guide, we want our care to be tailored to us and not a one size fits all, ‘off the shelf’ care plan. This reassures us that you are listening to our needs and recognise that we are unique, even if you have supported a young person who has experienced similar mental health distress or has a similar background to us.
‘Young people can tell when they are not treated as unique beings and if the help they are receiving is not tailored to them.’
Young Black men are sometimes viewed as ‘aggressive’ or ‘dangerous’ by society when accessing mental health services (Omonira, 2014). This makes us hesitant to access services because of how risk-averse professionals might respond to what they see as ‘aggression’ or a ‘threat’. Remember that it takes a lot for us to acknowledge that we are in a crisis and admit feeling vulnerable, so we need to be treated sensitively.
Although some young Black men do not talk to family or friends about their mental wellbeing, when you see a young person in crisis services, always ask them if they would like to have a friend or family member with them. This can be for moral support and start the conversation about their mental health.
Crisis services are supposed to be safe spaces where we can speak openly about our mental health distress without worry of; being misunderstood, treated insensitively, or being dismissed. Show understanding of the stigma of talking about mental health and make sure the outcomes of our interactions are fair and reflect our needs.
Some tips we have heard from young people when setting up a safe space include:
- Ask us if we are comfortable in the room or on the chair. If not, do your best to find a more comfortable room or chair.
- Offer us something to drink. We are most likely to decline initially, but it makes us feel cared for.
There are some cases when young people have been in distress and it is not safe for them to be offered warm drinks. However, there should not be a blanket restriction on offering warm drinks. Instead there should be individual risk assessments. In scenarios when warm drinks can’t be offered, clinicians should always explain the reason for this to the young person. For example, “I would like to offer you a warm drink. However, I can’t due to..”
You can ask us again if we want a drink or food later in the conversation. This is an opportunity for co-production of policies around offering young people drinks in your service
The following phrases can let us know that you are patient, trustworthy, non-judgemental and will be here to listen:
- “Take all the time you need – I’ll be here to listen.”
- “You’re not under any pressure, and I’m not going to leave until you’re ready.”
- “You’re not alone.”
- “I’m here to listen and understand and care for you.”
- Care Quality Commission (CQC) 2019 Brief guide: the use of ‘blanket restrictions’ in mental health wards, Available: www.cqc.org.uk (Accessed 16th May 2022)
- Omonira, R (2014) Black and dangerous? Listening to patients’ experiences of mental health services Why are black people with mental health problems still more likely than whites to be heavily medicated, restrained and detained against their will?, Available: www.jstor.org (Retrieved 22nd February 2022)
- Prince’s Trust (2017) Stigma stopping young people talking about mental health, Available: www.princes-trust.org.uk (Retrieved 23rd February 2022)
- Mental Health Foundation (2021) Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities , Available: www.mentalhealth.org.uk (Retrieved 22nd February 2022)