An independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession – if at first you don’t succeed, try try again, but how many chances do we need?
The sensitivity of speaking about mental health from a BAME perspective was addressed by the Mental Health Foundation in 2019 . My colleague Shannett Thompson has analysed this in her blog “Mental health within ethnic minorities and why #KindnessMatters”. The message from the Mental Health Foundation was that BAME communities “often face individual and societal challenges that can affect access to healthcare and overall mental and physical health”; reporting key issues which affect mental health in ethnic minorities such as racism and discrimination, social and economic inequalities, mental health stigma and interaction with the criminal justice system.
Shannett further explored the disparities in mental health amongst the BAME communities by exploring the Race Equality Foundation report, which ultimately concluded that “black and minority ethnic communities are vulnerable to a range of mental health issues. They also have poorer experiences when they use mental health services and experience gaps in the provision of services which meet their cultural and linguistic needs.”
Shannett ended her blog by suggesting ways we could be kinder to each other and how we can overcome this stigma. I cannot speak for the masses, but below are things that I now do to keep my mental health fit:
The legal profession is demanding. We have many tasks on the go with deadlines that often overlap and come a lot quicker than hoped. It’s so easy to become overwhelmed, and if not tackled effectively, it can have a detrimental effect on our mental health. In no way do I seek to underplay how complex mental health is, but I have found that what works for me is taking a pause and breathing. I take a moment and regain focus. It sounds simple, but that extra moment to breathe and slow down helps me regain control.
Reading books which address mental health issues in the BAME community show me that sometimes my own struggles are actually “normal”. I have joined Kingsley Napley’s BAME book club which encourages active discussions based on the issues addressed in the books, which gets us talking about our own struggles. This leads to my next tactic, talking.
Admittedly the hardest for me to put into practice, but talking about our mental health is significant in overcoming this stigma. Shannett highlighted this so well, “Talk about mental health within our ethnic communities, which is also key to helping ease the stigma attached to it.” Talking has traditionally been perceived as a sign of weakness in many BAME communities, and we convince ourselves that nothing is wrong, whilst deep down our problems continue to cause our mental health to deteriorate. However, although I’m still not an “open book” and I do often struggle to talk, I realise that in moments when I do express my problems, the sense of relief is liberating. Sometimes we need the confidence to start these discussions and talks, and I have found joining BAME groups which encourage active talking is a step in the right direction.
During low moments of self-doubt, I have found myself regaining mental focus by listening to motivational music and speeches on platforms such as YouTube. I am sure I speak for most of us when I say that we have all, at some time, been lost in the abyss of YouTube during sleepless nights (top 10 mysteries of the ocean being a go to topic), but listening to motivational music and watching inspirational videos helps to channel out the negative thoughts, and gives me a fresh perspective on what I want to achieve; a strong, healthy and positive mind-set.
Mental health is important, and although it is evident that the BAME community is still struggling, it is clear that everyone has their own way of dealing with it. My list is non-exhaustive, and by no means a remedy for everyone, but if you take anything away from this blog, please let it be to take a second away from our hectic lives and just breathe.
As a firm, we have had many discussions about BAME and Black Lives Matter and how we can make a difference to the movement. We wanted to do more than just put out a statement of support - we wanted to take substantive action to address the inequalities faced by Black people and other ethnic minorities. As part of this, we are publishing a series of blogs from our varying practice areas highlighting what we are doing, how you can make a difference and shining a light on the issues. The blog series can be found here.
Satvir Sokhi is an Associate in Kingsley Napley’s Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team.
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