Published On: 25 May 2007Tags:

This paper explores the complexities involved when we link mental illness with issues of ‘race’, culture and ethnicity; reviews some of the evidence for African and Caribbean men; and makes suggestions for addressing these in mental health practice. The paper focuses on settled communities from African and Caribbean backgrounds and has a bias to the crisis end of services.

Key messages:

  • The relationship between race, racism and mental health is complex and more research is needed to understand the links
  • Black males find themselves in situations that place them at greater risk of mental health problems, such as exclusion from schools, social deprivation, crime and drug cultures and racial victimisation
  • Black men are less able to identify that they have mental health problems, are unaware of sources of help, and fear that contact with services will lead to loss of status. Yet, mental health professionals find it difficult to talk about issues of ‘race’ and racism
  • Men from African and Caribbean backgrounds are over-represented in mental health services. They come to the attention of services via the police and the criminal justice system, and are more likely to receive the harsher end of services, such as seclusion, control and constraint
  • African and Caribbean men have negative perceptions of mental health services and therefore delay seeking help. This means that more coercive methods are used to engage them with mental health services
  • Mental health services are in a position to respond positively to the mental health needs of African and Caribbean men by building trust so as to address the damaging effects of racism on emotional well-being.


  • A complex relationship
  • The context of greater risk
  • Resistance to talking race.
  • Over-representation and harsher services
  • Mental illness and perceptions of services
  • Responding positively
View document

Author(s): Frank Keating
Briefing series: Better Health Briefing Paper 5
Publisher: Race Equality Foundation
Publication date:  May 2007