Public to set research priorities in field of ethnic inequalities and severe mental illness

A national online survey was launched today to give members of the public the opportunity to set the research priorities in the field of ethnic inequalities and severe mental illness.

The national public survey will help with the creation of research strategies to tackle mental health inequalities and help launch a national campaign to transform health systems.

Led by the Synergi Collaborative Centre in partnership with Queen Mary University of London, the University of Manchester and Words of Color Productions, the survey is the first national online survey of its kind.

The 15-minute survey aims to secure the opinions of a wide cross section of the public, including patients, carers, health and social care practitioners, commissioners, NGOs, volunteers and students.

Kamaldeep Bhui, Professor of Cultural Psychiatry and Epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London and Synergi's Project Lead said: "This is the first time there has been a priority setting exercise for addressing ethnic inequalities in mental health care, especially regarding research. We will be gathering knowledge and assembling views from all stakeholders to establish which are the most pressing issues to tackle and how best to rank them, linked to actions.

"Rather than replicating past studies, to relearn what has been forgotten, repressed, denied or overlooked, this survey will be forward facing to promote a new approach to set out research areas for impact on reducing aversive ethnic inequalities."

The survey is being launched against a backdrop of longstanding ethnic inequalities, including the fact that compared to the majority population, a diagnosis of schizophrenia is five to six times more likely in Black African people and Black Caribbean people, and nearly three times more likely in South Asian people.

As for detention rates among the civil population, Black Caribbean people and Black African people are three times more likely to be detained.

James Nazroo, Synergi's project partner, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE), the University of Manchester, said: "Addressing the longstanding ethnic inequalities in the experience of severe mental illness is both a pressing need and extremely challenging. One of the things that has prevented progress has been the under-representation of the full range of experiences and understandings of this issue. We will systematically analyze the responses to uncover points of agreement and disagreement to ensure the full range of views are heard. We particularly want to forefront the views of service users and the public, which are often unheard in these discussions."

Marcia Willis Stewart QC (Hon), Chair of the center's Advisory Board and Managing Partner at leading civil rights law firm Birnberg Peirce and Partners, commented: "This piece of work comes at a time when the emerging scandal of the 'hostile environment' policy has brought the hardships and pressures that afflict ethnic minority communities and individuals into the public gaze. At the same time equal access to justice for all continues to ebb away. For those who are doubly disenfranchised by ethnicity and fragile mental health, the importance of this public survey cannot be overstated."

The survey, which will be open to the public for three months, covers a wide range of topics that accommodate intersectionality, the criminal justice system, housing, education, homelessness, health services, racism and commissioning.

The main findings will be shared with policymakers, research institutions and commissioners, and will be made available to the public from November 2018.

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