Young Black people in Southwark are more at risk of poorer mental health but frequently receive worst services, according to a new review.  

Southwark’s health and social care scrutiny commission did a review of the delivery of mental health services for children and young people, though the pandemic meant it was more time-limited than initially intended.  

Nationally one in 10 children and young people are estimated to have a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder.  

In a letter to the cabinet member for children, schools, and adult social care, commission chair Cllr Victoria Olisa set out the initial findings and recommendations.  

The review set out to look at how the council was planning to meet its 100 per cent target – Southwark is aiming to ensure that all children with a diagnosed mental health condition in the borough have access to the mental health services they need. 

It also looked at Black, Asian and ethnic minority access to mental health services and boys’ and men’s mental health.  

The initial findings showed that young Black people are more at risk of poorer mental health but frequently receive worst services. 

“Black and minority ethnic communities are at comparatively higher risk of mental ill health because of the wider socio-economic detriments associated with mental ill health, including deprivation and racism. 

“Black and minority ethnic communities are more likely to end up in crisis and forensic care.  

“Nationally black and minority ethnic people are 40 percent more likely to access mental health services via the criminal justice system than white people: The same is true locally,” the review found.  

Though Black 18 to 65 year olds in Southwark represent 23.8 per cent of the population, they represent nearly half of those accessing mental health services via the criminal justice system. 

Black people are also disproportionately sectioned until the Mental Health Act. 

“Nationally Black and minority ethnic people are less likely to be referred to talking therapies and more likely to be medicated for ill mental health.  

“Locally there is an under representation of the BAME population in SLaM CAMHS provision.  

“This group makes up 59 per cent of Southwark’s population, but only 42.4 per cent of patients under the age of 18,” the review found.  

According to the letter, national research suggests that “matching the cultural, linguistic religious and/or racial identity” between service users and practitioners can improve treatment duration and outcomes.  

Black Thrive, an organisation set up to tackle mental health inequalities, has identified “institutional racism” as one of the reasons for poorer outcomes from services.  

Speaking to the commission, the organisation said that, despite educational achievement being a protective factor, young Black people are “more likely to experience institutional racism in school, with children less likely to receive a positive response to distress and more likely to experience punitive behaviour managing techniques such a detention and exclusion”.  

The commission’s first recommendation was for the council to improve data collation on sex and different Black and minority ethnic groups’ usage of mental health services. 

This should include CAMHS, services in schools, and the new mental health centre for young people in Peckham, to “enable specific research and actions to address barriers to accessing services” and to “ensure equitable access by sex and gender”.  

Secondly, the council should provide better access to talking therapies and engage with Black and minority ethnic communities to “ensure the therapies are culturally appropriate and geographically accessible”. 

The third recommendation, informed by the work of Black Thrive, is to adopt a race equality framework in the delivery of Southwark 100 per cent target.