Local initiatives can help to bring awareness of mental healthcare services to more groups.
Community development worker Bing Findlater acts as a link between Oldham primary care trust and people from black and minority ethnic communities. His role is to ensure people from BME communities are more aware of mental health issues and that treatment is tailored to their individual needs.
'The work we undertake presents us with many challenges. As a team, we have made considerable headway in tackling some of the challenges that the mental health agenda has posed over the 12 months we have existed,' he says.
'We need to gain real insight to help empower people to look after their own mental health and have input in the way services are accessed and delivered. We have spoken to young African Caribbean men on the streets and invited minicab drivers to mental health workshops. We have even set up an allotment for first generation migrants. We managed to obtain a disused allotment and are beginning to grow a variety of exotic fruit and vegetables. It makes them feel useful and really helps them on the road to recovery.
'We have held successful workshops with minicab drivers - again a group largely drawn from recent migrants. The workshops allow them to talk about any pressures or anxieties they may have and explain what they can do to help themselves in terms of mental well-being and who they could approach locally for help, as well as their GP or NHS Direct. Our approach involves empowering people and making them a part of the decision-making process.
'Our team has been heartened by responses from key local service providers. They realise that there is much to do, but they have a level of openness in addressing the issues identified. These include developing relationships between service providers and communities, encouraging and supporting the voice of community - particularly at the decision-making table - and looking into the agenda as it relates to new and emerging communities.
'We continue to engage with key players in the borough as well as helping develop the voice of those affected by mental health issues. One initiative was an 11-week long programme working with Asian women aged 21-35 that linked them into health-related groups. Some of the sessions dealt with practical concerns: coping with children, going for healthy walks, while others dealt with issues such as anger management. Many of these women have themselves become sessional workers and are now helping others in similar situations, and for us they personify everything that the programme stands for.'