July 03, 2020
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Black Minds Matter Fundraiser Tops £500,000. We Cant Quite Believe It
It was witnessing the huge mental health impact on Black British people of the coronavirus pandemic and police brutality in the US that made two Friends from Bristol decide they had to do something to help.
Agnes Mwakatuma, 26, and Annie Nash, 29, launched the Black Minds Matter campaign on June 1, a week after the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Their aim was to raise money – and awareness – to provide 12-week-long rounds of therapy for some of the Black people in the UK struggling with their mental health.
Within three days, there was funding for 24 rounds. Within a week enough for 340. A month on, the pair have raised a staggering £500,000 – which will fund 12-weeks of therapy for 720 people. Mwakatuma and Nash say they “can’t quite believe” the number of people and organisations that have donated.
The need is certainly there – in the same period, they’ve been inundated with requests from more than 1,000 people hoping to access this support.Related... racism Is A Mental Health Crisis. We Need To Support Each Other – Here’s How “We put together Black Minds Matter UK after noticing the mental health of Black people around us deteriorate at an alarming rate,” Mwakatuma tells HuffPost UK. 
“We noticed issues such as Covid-19 and the unjust killing of Black people in America were bringing out so many different emotions from built-up anger, sadness and unprocessed trauma patterns amongst the Black community. 
“We wanted to enable as many Black people [as possible] in the UK to be able to access free mental health support in the form of therapy sessions.”
As crowd-funders multiplied in the wake of events in Minneapolis, the pair chatted about “how amazing it would be if someone started a fund” for the mental health cause. ″We quickly realised that no change would happen unless we did it ourselves.”There has always been a need for an initiative that encourages Black individuals to seek out therapy by Black therapists.Agnes MwakatumaBlack Minds Matter has three clear goals: to connect Black people with certified Black therapists, to improve mental health resources for the Black community through the NHS, and to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health in the Black community.
“There has always been a need for an initiative like Black Minds Matter that encourages Black individuals to seek out therapy by Black therapists,” says Mwakatuma. “Statistics very clearly show that Black people have faced racial injustice, higher unemployment and homelessness rates than white counterparts for decades.
“Now more than ever we are constantly being reminded of the fact that these issues are still very prevalent in our community. Black people need safer spaces to heal, to communicate and to address these traumas, without being faced with any barriers such as cultural differences, or traditional or religious beliefs.”Related... Black British Women Have Our Own Needs To Be Addressed Right Now. Here’s Why Black and minority therapists are currently underrepresented in mental health services and research has shown that if a Black person’s experience does not resonate with a white therapist, it can lead to misdiagnosis.
And while studies suggest Black people have a higher risk of severe mental illness than white people, detention rates under the Mental Health Act were four times higher in 2017-18 for people from a Black or Black British background than those from a white background. 
This week, the newly appointed president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned that people from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background face a “triple whammy” of blows to their mental health, citing the disproportionate impact from Covid-19, the despair and hurt many people feel following the killing of George Floyd, and ongoing institutional racism in the NHS.
Dr Adrian James said: “Racism is pervasive and can lead to a profound feeling of pain, harm and humiliation, often culminating in despair and exclusion. “The persistent and wide-ranging inequalities for people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK, increase their likelihood of being disadvantaged across all aspects of society.”
He pointed out that people from BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) groups are more likely to experience poverty, to have poorer educational outcomes, to be unemployed, and to come in contact with the criminal justice system – and these, in turn, are risk factors for developing a mental illness.
People from these groups are far less likely to access the right support at the right time, he added, calling for the impact of racism on mental health to be urgently prioritised by the prime minister’s commission on racial inequalities.
Early intervention is crucial for better mental health outcomes – yet waiting times for therapy on the NHS can range from weeks to months depending on where you live and the type of therapy you require.
This is where Black Mind Matters hopes to step in, says its co-founders.Related... 13 Microaggressions Black People Deal With All The Time Mwakatuma says it is “shocking and saddening” that there has been so little research into the mental health of Black people specifically. She and Nash, who has a background as a mental health support worker, have found a limited awareness among some who have approached them about the services available, or some reluctance to engage with those services, especially at the early stage of mental illness.
“Most of the individuals who have reached out have explained that they haven’t had great experiences with the services that are readily available and sometimes worry that they might be going against what is deemed to be culturally appropriate,” Mwakatuma explains. 
“The stigma around mental health in some BAME communities makes it harder for people to see therapy as an initial option or first step towards addressing any traumas.
“The way mental health is perceived amongst some of these cultures decreases the likelihood of individuals actually reaching out and getting the assistance they might need. Sometimes this is left almost too late,” says Mwakatuma.
NHS England have stressed that mental health services have continued to be available throughout the pandemic to those with existing conditions and “understandable feelings of stress and anxiety”. 
A spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “It is important in the context of coronavirus that local services continue to adapt and maximise the mental health support provided to those who are more vulnerable. and anyone who is suffering themselves or worried about a friend or loved one should check nhs.uk for services in your area, including talking therapies and 24/7 crisis support.”Related... This Is How To Support Black British People Right Now – And How Not To The friends have been overwhelmed by the show of support and are now urging people to help them fundraise through their permanent donation page (the project was previously using a GoFundMe page). 
They are now putting all their efforts into making that money count, spending the past few weeks vetting more than 40 therapists, with Nash focused on ensuring safeguarding for those who will soon be accessing the therapy.
“We want to make sure each therapist has the correct qualifications, is part of a board, has personal liability insurance, a recent DBS check, but most importantly resonates with Black Minds Matter’s mission,” says Mwakatuma.  
Speaking for both women, she adds: “We still can’t quite believe the support we have received from various individuals from different backgrounds and organisations. We are truly excited to change the face of Black mental health and the services available to those of us in the UK.” 
Further Resources:Therapy for Black Girls was set up by Black women for Black women.Mind′s Young Black men programme is designed to look after the mental health of Black men and is open to those from 11 to 30 years-old.The Siwe Project is an international charity promoting mental health awareness in the global Black community.Black Men Speak is a speakers bureau where African American men educate others outside their race about mental health issues.Melanin & Mental Health was founded by two Black women therapists to promote mental and emotional healing in Black and Latinx communities.Open Path Collective seeks a safe place for marginalised people to receive therapy and ease the financial burden that comes with it.The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network is a directory of counsellors and psychotherapists of Black, African, Asian and Caribbean heritage in the UK.Useful websites and helplines
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.
The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email help@themix.org.uk
Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.Related... Self-Care Is Vital When Fighting For Social Change. Here's Why. I’m A Black Midwife, And I’m Tired Of Women Like Me Receiving Worse Healthcare Windrush Compensation Scheme Is Traumatising Victims All Over Again
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