New initiative calls for far-reaching changes to UK’s mental health services

A new national initiative backed by David Lammy MP has called for collaboration and far-reaching changes in the use of mental health science and real-life experiences of service users.

The Synergi Collaborative Centre - a centre of excellence for ethnic inequalities, severe mental illness and multiple disadvantage – is a partnership between The University of Manchester, Queen Mary University of London and Words of Colour Productions. It has launched a briefing paper which provides the most up-to-date analyses on ethnic inequalities in UK mental health systems, looking at incidence, prevalence and pathways to care.

According to their analysis, Black people are nearly three and a half times more likely to than White people to be detained, yet some studies suggest they are only two-thirds as likely to have a GP involved in their pathways to care. Other studies indicate that a diagnosis of mood disorder is between three and four times more likely in Black Caribbean and Black African people than White people.

We have been talking about mental health for years and it is getting worse, which is why my hopes for the Synergi Collaborative Centre are big hopes. There is a real need to draw on community expertise to advocate, speak up and offer innovation and solutions, and to bring them into the mainstream. We have the solutions, and we need the system to hear and understand them.
David Lammy MP, author of the government-backed independent review of the treatment of, and outcomes for, BAME individuals in the Criminal Justice System

“This is a problem that has existed for decades - not just over-representation in services, particularly of young black men, but also the under-representation of their voices in attempts to understand and address the experience of mental illness,” said Professor Kamaldeep Bhui, Director of the Synergi Collaborative Centre. “We will use scientific approaches to make progress, and we will air evidence from the full range of parties involved in these issues in a way that puts the experiences of those with severe mental illness centre stage.”

Among the centre’s objectives is to collate, interpret and communicate knowledge on ethnic inequalities in mental health, and how this relates to severe and multiple disadvantage. It will also become a focal point for action, leading to systems change, prioritise stories of real lives, and gather a full range of stakeholders through models of co-production, and co-curation of knowledge, to develop and implement solutions.

Kathleen, who is a mental health survivor and is studying for a degree in Community Development and Leadership, said. “The Synergi Collaborative Centre should have been introduced years ago. When I was living in a hostel, I was around people who, like me, were in mental distress. They were taken into hospital, medicated and are now worse than they were before they went in. It hurts because it feels like there has been no change in how services are run or in our experiences as people of colour.”

It has also been announced that The Synergi Network will be launched in February 2018. Open to all interested parties - including members of the public - this network will provide a thinking space to inform, share ideas, learning and solutions.

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