COVID-19 and the BAME Community

Hi! my name is Rabeya and I work at Nafsiyat Intercultural Therapy Centre as a bilingual, Bengali psychotherapist. Over the last 18 months many have found Covid-19 difficult because of the many changes that it has brought. For example: • Lockdown itself • Working from home and other work related issues • Social Isolation • Uncertainty and fear with people catching Covid and people dying from Covid. Spare a thought if you can for those people in Black and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME for short) who while dealing with all these issues also have other aspects to face that makes COVID even harder for them. Research tells us that BAME groups are disadvantaged not only because of racism but also by such aspects as poor health and housing, difficult where there are many generations living in the same household – all before COVID was even heard of. The same research sources tell us that many people with BAME backgrounds have pre-existing health conditions as a result of both health and social inequalities with some studies showing that as much as 34% of critically ill COVID-19 patients are from BAME communities. I would like to mention some possible reasons that we could consider: • Experience of individual and institutional racism make BAME groups suspicious of authorities including health care – particularly when information might not be available in a language they can understand. Without accurate information it might lead to people accepting wrong information from different sources – family, community or religious figures for example • Where community and family ideas are seen as important then misleading information based on hearsay can be shared and persuade a person to avoid medical or psychological help. The power of the community often has more impact than a room full of scientists. • BAME can have higher death rates as a result of inequalities – and are potentially more likely to be infected when living in overcrowded poor housing conditions. • Psychologically mental health might not even be accepted by many cultures making it harder to find ways of reaching out to BAME cultures to offer assistance. Even if people are willing to try therapy, with lockdown there can often be no space to have private therapy in busy crowded homes • Not everyone works in jobs that includes the potential for financial help with lockdown – many people in BAME cultures are more likely to work in lower paid employment that might in turn expose them to more chances of becoming impacted by COVID, either because they could not work from home or simply because their jobs cannot be done from home. • With lockdown there has been a huge increase in technology to provide vital services – yet many older generations struggle with technology – so even if they are considering therapy, it might only be available in ways they cannot use or do not have access to. Faced with these extra difficulties BAME patients would welcome professional help that can give them even better support, and there are some ideas here that you might find useful. • Be as aware as you can be of the impact of your culture on the person you are with. Acknowledge your differences and recognise that in doing this it might make it easier for the patients to open up and learn to trust. • Being able to communicate in their own language also brings out many aspects that otherwise might not emerge – so look to either involve interpreters or bilingual staff. • Although you may not be able to help personally, at least be able to point to where they can get reliable information to deal with COVID issues • In terms of projects it would be helpful as groups of professionals to work with community and or religious leaders to find culturally acceptable ways in which the best kind of support can be offered both in terms of psychoeducation and ways of getting practical help. COVID-19 has affected so many people worldwide – but the additional challenges faced by people in BAME cultures can be greatly helped by any professional working alongside them, particularly if we are aspiring to provide the best kind of service to the many cultures we work with.

In this podcast, listen to Rabeya, a bilingual psychotherapist who works at Nafsiyat Intercultural Therapy centre, explore the impact COVID-19 continues to have on people from black and minority ethic groups and how we can contribute to help those facing extra difficulties.

Nafsiyat are a charity who offer intercultural therapy in over 20 languages to people from diverse cultural communities. To find out more about the work Nafsiyat do, click here.