Summary of report content
Healthwatch Islington as part of the Diverse Communities Partnershuip undertook research into mental ill health given the high prevalence of this condition in the borough. In February 2020 they carried out interviews with some of these residents to find out what their experiences were of accessing the mental health support available in the borough, with a particular emphasis on services commissioned by Islington Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Additionally, representatives of each Diverse Communities organisation were interviewed. They were asked about the clients they supported and how their needs were changing, and how their organisation interacted with statutory services. They interviewed 73 Islington residents, 70 of whom were registered with an Islington GP. All participants were aged 18+ and were experiencing/living with mental health issues that required or would benefit from additional support.
As expected a range of barriers exist and these vary from person to person. Despite high levels of need, awareness of services remains low amongst residents.
Whilst the Mental Health First Aid training has been very useful for some partners in identifying need, it is not always possible to tell whether clients then follow up. Not all staff knew about all the support services, and it was suggested that they co-ordinated joint visits to statutory funded services or hosted joint visits from statutory funded services. ICOPE was noted as being particularly hard to contact, but partners understood that they are very busy.
The wellbeing activities on offer, the peer support and the physical location, all can help clients with their wellbeing and physical health, managing anxiety. For example, with the recent Coronavirus pandemic, people look to these organisations for reassurance and support on a range of issues.
Specialist BMER (Black Minority Ethnic and Refugee) organisations build up trust and can reach clients that others may not reach, and they can open up conversations that others may not be able to. These organisations can then advise them on their mental health and support them to access services. However, if there is no appropriate support to direct them to, or the waiting lists are long (as is the case with culturally specific mother tongue counselling) this is problematic.
Statutory support services that impact on mental health, such as housing and welfare advice, can also be difficult to access.
The report contains seven recommendations about resourcing for culturally specific organisations; support for grassroots BMER organisations working with residents with high-level, complex needs in a community setting, better information, access to talking therapies, referrals and awareness raising.