Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Messages for others

People who have had mental health problems are often keen to pass on what they have learnt from their experiences to others in the same situation. We spoke to people who were at different stages of their recovery, and some were more hopeful than others about the future (see 'Recovery'). Most of the people we interviewed were keen to give messages that would inspire and give hope to other people with mental health problems and their families and carers, because they said they knew what it was like not to feel positive or hopeful.

There were 4 main messages:

  • There is life after being diagnosed with a mental health problem 
  • Think positive and don't give up
  • Get help, support and treatment
  • Do your bit, don't leave it all to the doctors
 
  • 1. There is life after being diagnosed with a mental health problem 

“All is not lost” if you are diagnosed with a mental health problem - for some people it might even be the start of something better (see 'Getting a diagnosis'), even if it can at times be quite debilitating. Many people described coming to terms with having a mental health problem (see 'Recovery') and this was seen as a good first step to moving on after diagnosis. 

Some people saw their mental health problems as a kind of “enabling disability” or “a gift” if you can learn to manage it. So although having a mental health problem could change you forever, it might be a positive experience and people pointed to various individuals in history and modern times who achieved great things in spite of experiencing mental health problems. One man wanted to give hope to others - if they could see he could do it, so can they (see Hanif's story). 

2. Think positive and don't ever give up

Another key message is persevere and keep fighting. Many people said never give up and don't despair because things will improve - even though it might take time and even if things seem very bleak. One woman said “it is possible to get out of the situation even if you've been really, really low”.

Many people urged others to carry on living life “normally” and “keep on working at” whatever they're doing, whether it's work or education. They also recommend people “never give up on aiming towards something,” even if it's only to live happily with their family.

Others urged people to have a positive attitude - “don't say to yourself I can't do it, say to yourself I can do it” - and to be strong and never ashamed of having a mental health problem [see David above]. Others thought it was everyone's right to live a fulfilling life and urged people with mental health problems to value themselves. 

3. “Don't wait until tomorrow” - Get help, support and treatment

Many people thought it was particularly important to seek help, support and treatment and to do it immediately. They said “don't be scared to ask for help”. They recommended going to the GP, or to support groups or mental health organisations (see 'Support from charities & support groups'). 

People also suggested trying different treatments, including talking therapy (see 'Talking therapies & ECT') because people need support as well medication. They emphasised that help is available if people want it, so keep on trying until you get the help you need, and change your GP or psychiatrist if necessary. People said it is important to want to get well. 

Talking to someone - whether a doctor, a friend, or people with mental health problems was thought to be a good way of getting support. One woman recommended confiding in someone because it would help to clear your mind. She suggested finding a good friend, but said if that is not possible, then make the GP your friend. Another woman suggested paying for counselling if it was hard to find someone you could trust to talk to. Talking to other people with the same experience was recommended as particularly helpful because they would be able to understand; as one woman said: “It doesn't matter what you're experiencing, there's going to be someone else who's having that same experience”. 

People also thought finding out about rights and entitlements was a good idea. One woman who had been hospitalised against her wishes recommended that people get an advocate (see Sara's story). Others suggested finding out your rights while in hospital, and speaking to someone who can give advice about social security benefits. One man said “Don't feel guilty about claiming benefit” and suggested appealing if the claim is refused. 

For people who have made a complaint about mental health services or are thinking about doing so, one man said to keep talking about it to the people in management positions and local councillors. 

4. Do your bit - don't leave it all to the doctors

Many people added that there is a need to be honest with doctors and carers so that they can help. They thought people should trust their psychiatrist, listen to their doctors and “be a good patient” - though not everyone agreed with this.

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Others said people should do whatever they could to try to help themselves, including one woman who said that people should try to work with their problems: “We can't leave it in the hands of the medication or the GPs and psychiatrists”. A few people recommended avoiding alcohol and drugs, others suggested getting information about the diagnosis, and developing coping strategies, like keeping a diary of their feelings or trying to distract their mind from depressing thoughts. (See 'What else helps'.)

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Something else that people strongly suggested was giving support to others with mental health problems - including one man who said that the care and love that people need doesn't come from professionals, but from friends, family and the community. Another man said people should look after their family and make sure that their carers get the help they need, although one woman said it was important to “fix yourself” first. 

Last reviewed June 2015.

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