Understanding ethnic inequities in pathways to mental health services: A meta-ethnography of perceptions and experiences of people from ethnic minority groups


National Institute for Health (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Ref. NIHR201058

What is the research question?

How is help-seeking for symptoms of mental illness perceived, negotiated and experienced by different ethnic groups? Is it possible to explain, using the existing literature, why people from non-white ethnic groups are underrepresented in primary care mental health service provision and over-represented in crisis pathways and detention?

What is the problem?

We know from previous research that people from non-white ethnic groups [commonly referred to as black and minority ethnic (BAME)] groups are less likely to receive treatment for mental illness in the community despite having the same level of symptoms as white British people. This is concerning because we know that delayed treatment can increase the risk of a person becoming very unwell and going into crisis. Research has shown that there is a higher risk of suicide and self-harm in some BAME groups. Also, people from all BAME groups are more likely to come into services in a crisis and be treated in hospital for mental illness under the mental health law, compared to the white British. We need to do more research to understand why, and where, there are difficulties in accessing and providing care and treatment for BAME groups.

What is the aim of the research?

The aim of this study is to improve our understanding of how people from different ethnic groups experience, and make sense of, the process of seeking help when they experience symptoms of mental illness.

How will this be achieved?

We will do this by finding the existing research on the experiences of different ethnic groups and bring it together in a systematic way. The method we plan to use is a special form of evidence synthesis relevant for this kind of research. This method can help us understand how patients experience their health, illness, and available services and how these experiences influence when and how they get support for mental illness. This research will help us to understand what services need to do in order to improve the experiences of all ethnic groups in the UK.

Who is leading the research?

Dr Narinder Bansal, Research Fellow, Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol.

Further information:

Dr Narinder Bansal

For more information or to get involved in this project, please contact bnssg.research@nhs.net.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.