Commissioning and providing mental health advocacy for African and Caribbean men

Needs and advocacy

Mental health and advocacy

Advocacy is usually defined as a process or intervention that ensures vulnerable people have a voice within services characterised by power inequalities between providers and users. Mental illness, and the social and statutory service response to it, can mean that individuals can find it difficult to speak up for themselves and be heard. This

This is recognised by the introduction of a statutory duty in relation to advocacy under the Mental Health Act 2007 (3). However it is important to recognise the need for advocacy for people experiencing mental health problems, who are not subject to the Act, and the risks to their self-determination and their rights.

Need within BME communities

In addition to the above, people from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities may also experience additional social disadvantage, racism and discrimination. Advocacy can support people from BME to access appropriate high quality services as early as possible. This need is clearly recognised within the Department of Health action plan Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care.

For people from specific BME communities, notably African and Caribbean communities, this means diversion to less restrictive services and reducing the risk of admission and detention under the Mental Health Act or via the criminal justice system.

For other communities, for example Chinese communities, it means increased engagement and access to support, as people from these communities are typically under-served by mental health services.

African and Caribbean men

There is a growing body of evidence for the negative relationship between mental health services and African and Caribbean men. This negative relationship can result in a lack of inclination to seek help or comply with treatment, leading to relapse and readmission and further social exclusion. The Better Health Briefing on African and Caribbean men and mental health from the Race Equality Foundation provides an overview of the key issues and examples of positive service developments.

This evidence provides information on the role of advocacy and it needs to address:

Link: Race Equality Foundation: Better Health Briefing 5

Identifying needs

Assessing need for mental health advocacy is an essential task for both commissioners and providers. This assessment ensures that the services provided meet needs effectively, and do not disadvantage particular groups in the way they are designed and promoted. This process needs to:

Potential sources of information include: