Project aims to help ethnic minority elders

May 08 2017

A £15k PROJECT is under way to break down barriers for ethnic minority elders needing mental health counselling.

A £15k PROJECT  is under way to break down barriers for ethnic minority elders needing mental health counselling.

Social enterprise Oasis-Talk, which provides 2,000 mental health sessions across Bristol and South Gloucestershire every month, wants to understand what barriers are in place that stop people seeking help.

Black and ethnic minority communities are more likely to be affected by depression, particularly people over 50, yet take up of free NHS therapy is much lower for older people than those of working age.

The Elders Project, funded by a grant from Bristol Ageing Better, aims to find out the reasons for this, and connect people who need help to the right services.

Local community groups aimed at black and ethnic minority people across the city will be visited as part of the project, and asked about their encounters with mental health services in Bristol and how these could be improved. Taster sessions on topics including stress and mindfulness are also being offered at groups, so members can see whether attending a longer free course might be of help to them.

One of the groups that will benefit is Opoka, an Eastern-European support centre in Montpelier.

It is hoped that over the course of the nine-month project, 100 people will be given access to mental health support who wouldn’t normally have got in touch.

Oasis-Talk Relationship manager Ruth Richardson said uptake of mental health counselling was low among older people from ethnic minorities and the project aimed to change that.

She said: “Lots of these people grew up in another country before coming to Britain, so don’t have English as their first language.

“We’re finding so far that one of the main barriers is a cultural difference in how people talk about mental health. In English it’s common to talk about mental health in addition to physical health, but this isn’t true everywhere.

“It’s important that people have access to counselling or group services in their own language, with someone who can understand the subtle differences words can have in different cultures. For instance, in Somali there isn’t a word for depression.

“By going direct to people where they feel comfortable, we cut out the bureaucracy. We have no waiting list, whereas if people go and see their GP and wait to be seen through the NHS there’s usually a wait of eight weeks or more.”

Anyone wanting to take part in the project and share their own experience, or wanting a visit to their own community group, can contact elders community worker Shazia Riaz on 0117 970 9423.