The notion of double discrimination, where ethnicity and disability can form a double barrier to those seeking support, has long been recognised. Indeed, there was a clear requirement in the Valuing People strategy to identify resources to address these issues through work streams in local partnership boards. A recent report by the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, ‘Reaching out to Families’ reported on work with local groups aiming to build strong, sustainable networks to identify what factors enabled success in accessing appropriate services, and to disseminate those lessons to a wider audience.
The report’s authors found that many BME communities were still unaware of what help was available, a situation that does not appear to have improved since earlier studies which showed that 75% of people with learning difficulties from black and minority ethnic communities were struggling without support.
The authors of this systematic review looked at the utlisation of mental health services by people with learning disabilities from black and minority ethnic communities in high income countries. They were particularly interested in looking at the impact of ethnic variation in the uptake of such services.
They found nine studies that matched their selection criteria, six of which compared two or more ethnic groups and found a variation in levels of mental health service utilisation.
The most consistent finding in the studies they reviewed was that South Asian children, adolescents and adults with learning disabilities in the UK had a lower use of mental health services than White British comparison groups.
They concluded that ethnic influences on mental health service utilisation could clearly be identified in the literature, but that in order to better understand their significance and potential negative consequences, further research will be required.
Ethnic factors in mental health service utilisation among people with intellectual disability in high-income countries: systematic review, Durà-Vilà, G. & Hodes, M. in Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56: 827–842