Finding a Way Forward
A Black Perspective on Social Approaches
to Mental Health
Black service users and practitioners welcome the current debate about the centrality of a social model in modern mental health services. However, there is a fear that once again the Black perspective will be an 'add on' feature to some other mainstream theory, as in many of the recent initiatives in the development of new approaches to coping with mental distress.
Equality and diversity are an inherent part of good practice in mental health services in our society. No new model of mental health service delivery, 'social' or otherwise, should be proposed without a thorough analysis of how it relates to issues of equality and diversity and how it actively promotes both of these outcomes. It is essential that that equality is not just replaced with the politically less contentious issue of 'cultural diversity' or worse still 'cultural awareness'. Awareness does not guarantee any change or action, and diversity does not guarantee structural change or any meaningful political analysis of the realities of institutional racism in mental health services. For example, there is currently concern that the new government strategy 'Delivering Race Equality' may have 'equality' in its title, but is really a narrower 'cultural diversity' and 'awareness' approach in disguise (Ferns, 2004).
This chapter seeks to raise some fundamental issues that need to be covered in the formulation of any social model of mental health, if it aims to address the specific issues for Black and ethnic minority people in need of services. At present, there is a valuable opportunity to move service development