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Mental health charity Lambeth & Southwark MIND is launching this Crowdfunder to help support its Black River Counselling Service.
The service was established in response to increased demand during the pandemic to provide support to people from Black African/African Caribbean communities who were disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Research shows that these communities face additional barriers to accessing mental health services, not least the stigma associated with mental health problems, and a mistrust of statutory mental health services which discourages them from seeking support.
As we mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush, bringing people from the Caribbean to the UK, many of whom settled in Lambeth and Southwark, demand for the service has never been greater. We currently have a waiting list of around 100 people and have received a large number of enquiries from people that had never previously sought support for their mental health before.
One service user told us:
"Black River Counselling was a great opportunity for me to explore facets of myself that were previously unexplored despite being in and out of private and NHS therapy for the past twenty years. Also, as a Black British woman, I felt much more comfortable sharing my experiences relating to that part of my identity. The sessions I had with [counsellor] helped me understand and feel at ease with my true self which has set me on a very positive life path. This is an outcome I felt I had lacked from previous therapists, so I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to use this counselling service.”
The service is for adults aged 18+ with a wide range of mental health conditions. Many of our service users also experience complex social problems such as addiction, domestic abuse, learning disabilities, financial or housing issues or long-term health problems.
We recognise that historically, black communities have not accessed preventative services, especially talking therapies. One of the reasons is the high cost of private counselling, alongside the feeling of being misunderstood by non-black counsellors.
The Black River Counselling service helps reduce the inequality that exists for black people in accessing culturally sensitive mental health support. Being able to talk to someone with insight into the black experience is vitally important in the counselling process. Counselling is delivered online by therapists of black African/African Caribbean heritage and the service provides early intervention support and encourages people to seek help before their mental health deteriorates.
People of African and Caribbean heritage have made a huge contribution to the cultural and economic life of Lambeth and Southwark but, despite this, there is still significant socio-economic inequality, and this is evident in the disproportionate number of people from the black community that experience mental health problems. We feel passionately that the time to address black mental health is long overdue.