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How The Budget Helps Break The Mental Health Taboo In Minority Communities

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Growing up as a young black man, the concept of ‘mental health’ was never discussed – not because people didn’t care but because they didn’t understand it. The idea that mental health issues were a biological condition that could strike anyone at any time in the same way as a physical illness, was an unfamiliar one.

This makes it all the more shocking to know that as a black man, I am 17 times more likely than a white man to be diagnosed with a serious mental health condition in the UK, with research showing that black adults have the lowest treatment rates of any community in the UK.

That is why I was so pleased to see the Chancellor take steps to address this in this week’s Budget.

As well as more money for public services such as the NHS and income tax cuts for over 32million people, I listened with particular interest to the announcement that the Government has committed more than £2billion of investment to increased mental health services as part of the NHS’s ten-year plan. This money will reduce waiting times for treatment and will be particularly welcome news to communities across the UK for whom mental health problems remain a taboo.

While our understanding of mental health has come on leaps and bounds since then, for many black, Asian and ethnic minority communities, mental health remains a sensitive subject. Our friends and neighbours still feel unable to speak out about the challenges they are facing as a taboo persists around accessing care.

This new Government pledge represents a huge investment in mental health provision for all our communities. It will finance a raft of new services as we work to make sure that mental health is recognised by everyone as equally important to physical health – in all our communities. The money made available by the Chancellor will fund new mental health crisis services, more mental health ambulances, a 24-hour mental health crisis hotline and more ‘safe havens’ in the community. I am delighted to see that these reforms are encouraging early access to treatment and reducing the number of people in our communities who seek help later, when their symptoms are at their most severe.

We all know that mental health problems can affect anyone at any time in their life. These new measures mean that mental health support will be able to shift away from last minute treatment and focus on promoting early and easily accessible intervention.

With the promise of new ‘safe havens’ and a 24 hour crisis helpline, the Chancellor has made sure that there will always be someone to turn to in a time of need. This will be particularly important for the 1 in 4 people from minority communities who don’t share their struggles for fear that no one in their community will understand what they are going through. This is often because mental health issues in most black families can be seen by older generations as a social rather than biological disorder. Which is why, within our communities we must continue to work hard to address the lack of awareness around mental health problems and the cultural and religious barriers that can mean that treatment is often delayed for those who are suffering.

That is why I am so pleased to see that the Chancellor’s commitment concentrates on preventative, tailored, community-based treatment. Our Conservative government wants to make sure that everyone, regardless of ethnicity, age or background, gets the mental health treatment they need.

For too long our approach to mental health has been far too narrow, which is why the Chancellor’s Budget commitments are so important. They are game changing for the NHS in terms of its national mental health provision and will also mean that more people will have better access to the treatment they need – whoever they are, wherever they are from and whenever and wherever they need it.

Sam Gyimah is the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation and Conservative MP for East Surrey

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