Published: 10/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5942 Page 22 23

Dr Marie McDevitt, public health specialist, Stockport PCT

I was interested to learn that the Department of Health has launched the document Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care, and vowed to eliminate discrimination in mental health services by 2010 (news, page 6, 13 January).

However, the need for mental healthcare does not appear to be equal between different races. People from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, who often experience above-average levels of mental ill health, are to be encouraged to access services.

Conversely, services are expected to show a reduction in the numbers of BME patients being admitted to inpatient psychiatric units. Some people from BME groups, including the Irish community, may need to be admitted more often than average, precisely because they suffer higher levels of mental distress.

Mental health services should not unfairly discriminate against different ethnic groups. However, it may be that some evidence of 'discrimination' may simply be mental health services being discerning, and responding to a difference in actual need.

Efforts need to be made to address the root causes of the additional mental health problems from which BME groups suffer.