New Virtual Hub Dedicated to Ethnic Minority People with Severe Mental Illness

Published: 15 November 2017

Country: UK

Synergi_Collaborative_CentreOf all the people detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA) in the UK, more than half of them are Black, states the 2015/2016 MHA report. Even though there are conflicting explanations as to why 56.9 percent of people detained under the Act are Black or of Black British ethnicity, it is almost certain that there is an inseparable and complex relationship between ethnic inequalities and severe mental illness.

A new national virtual hub, The Synergi Collaborative Centre, is being launched in London on 22 November to address this issue. And particular attention is being devoted to the narratives surrounding mental health when it comes to diversity, and how the media can actually help.

Joy Francis, executive director of Words of Colour Productions, is the co-director responsible for building the base of the Synergi online portal. She said that equal access to information is one of aims to elevate the hidden narratives of ethnic minorities with lived experience. “Most of the time, the information is embedded in an academic piece of research which isn’t accessible to everyone. When it comes to journalistic coverage of mental illness and ethnic inequalities, there is still a big question mark on how one of the biggest running health stories is covered.” Presenting stories and narratives in more creative and accessible ways from one source is what the Synergi website hopes to achieve, through blog posts, interviews films and online topics.

Funded by the Lankelly Chase Foundation, the Synergi Collaborative Centre is a partnership between  Professor Kamaldee Bhui, Queen Mary University of London, Professor Nazroo, the University of Manchester and Francis’s company Words of Colour Productions.

The centre will adopt a collaborative approach with a focus on co-design, co-creation and robust research. New content will be co-produced by people involved in this field, Francis explained, to highlight what is working in different parts of the country.

The centre will use a range of different tools, online and offline, to ensure the narratives of ethnic minority people experiencing severe mental illness can be as transparent as possible. Different multimedia formats, including podcasts, will be used by the team to tell the stories of the people who might have not have the opportunity to do so otherwise.

A virtual and offline space, the centre will link people at all levels, including journalists and editor, bring about positive change. “It is not just about government policies and statistics, though they are important. It is about the carers, patients, service users and survivors. It’s about hearing and understanding their experiences and their narratives. And it’s about developing a range of creative ways to get those narratives visible to help transform services and how they are plans are delivered,” said Francis.

Understanding the people who experience the health service system is crucial for policy makers and commissioners, who will also be given a voice on the virtual centre. In fact, the proposal to have co-production is to impact on the influencers who hold the power to make crucial changes to the system. Only then, can we be fully attentive to the voices of those who depend upon it.