Pandemic disproportionately affecting mental health of BAME young people, study reveals

The coronavirus pandemic may be having a disproportionate impact on the mental health of young people of black, Asian, or ethnic minority (BAME), a major study has revealed.

The research, published by digital mental health provider XenZone, adds to the growing body of evidence pointing to a long-term mental health crisis caused by the virus.

However, it is the first to show that suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and anxiety scores are all significantly higher among BAME patients compared to white patients.

According to the report, children and young people from BAME backgrounds saw a 9.2 per cent increase in depression scores compared to the same period last year. This is compared to children and young people from white backgrounds, who reported a 16.2 per cent decrease in depression scores.

Meanwhile, suicidal reports among BAME patients rose by 26.6 per cent compared to the same period last year, as well as a 25.9 per cent increase in reports of self-harm, and a 11 per cent increase in stress and anxiety.

This is compared to white patients, who reported an 18.1 per cent, 24.9 and three per cent increase respectively.

Commenting on the figures, XenZone counsellor Aisha Gordon-Hiles said it is vital to understand how the pandemic is affecting different demographics to provide effective treatment.

“Many BAME children and young people feel barriers to cultural understanding are reduced when speaking to a practitioner from their community. They also feel they can talk about issues of race and culture freely, without fears of judgement and or racism in response,” she said.

“In addition to this, having BAME role models in the field of mental health is particularly important for CYP from BAME communities. This is because disclosures of mental health and wellbeing issues are less culturally appropriate in a lot of these communities.”

XenZone’s chief clinical officer Dr Lynne Green added: “It is so crucial that we work with our young BAME population to help them to make sense of their experiences and feelings; support them to break down the areas of concern into manageable chunks and gain a sense of control in the here and now as well as in relation to their future prospects. With support from our BAME colleagues at XenZone, we are challenging ourselves to better understand what is going on for this clearly vulnerable cohort.”

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.

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