Page last updated at 23:52 GMT, Friday, 5 February 2010

The DVD helping mentally ill minorities

By Jane Elliott
BBC News, Health reporter

Man in hospital
Getting help to those who need it

Some black and ethnic minority groups are three times more likely to be admitted to mental health services.

But despite this health workers are worried that many people from some ethnic communities are not accessing the help they need.

Language barriers are blamed, as is a belief in certain cultures that mental health issues should not be talked about outside the family.

Raju Mehta was one who suffered from such stigma.


When the former pilot was mugged, his whole world collapsed before him and he struggled to cope.

At first he relied on his family to help him through, a traditional response in the Indian community.

They need help but are very proud
Raju Mehta

But as his health deteriorated, he started drinking heavily, felt suicidal and his family could do nothing to help.

Raju knew he needed outside help, but said others were not so fortunate.

"I am a happy-go-lucky person, but when someone struck me about six years ago they destroyed my life.

"I was mugged and became depressed and, anxious to make myself feel better, I drank. I was trying to destroy my life.

Raju Mehta
Raju sought help for his problems

"But one day I just realised that life was for living. With the help of a lot of people I learnt about counselling and help."

He said within his own community seeking help as he had was frowned upon.

"When they have a problem in the family in my community they will not say because they are worried that they will not get a boy or girl to marry their son or daughter.

"They need help but are very proud."

'Lost cause'

Raju now volunteers to help his community, telling them about what happened to him.

This is also why he has agreed to feature in a DVD, launched by his local health authority, Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Time To Talk, a 30-minute DVD available in 12 different languages, aims to encourage everyone to talk about their mental health and to give them advice on where to go for help.

"When I was depressed I was out of the community and family," said Raju.

"The family helped me for a couple of months then they thought I was a lost cause and instead of the family members I got help from outside.

"My family did not understand the problems and that is why I did the DVD.

"Depression is a hard subject for the Indian community."

Moira Port, a modern matron at the Lister Hospital mental health unit in Stevenage, said in some communities mental health issues remain a stigma.

And she said that just more than half of those needing help currently sought it.

"The DVD was produced by a number of service users and staff and was about improving understanding of what mental health issues are in the BME (Black and Minority Ethnic communities) community," she said.

"And how they felt that their own community view mental health issues, such as being weak or fear of stigma.

"They said that they were frightened to come out."

But she said seeking help had been shown to work.

"But the ones who managed to access mental health services have found it quite useful.

"They then feel empowered to go and talk to the community and say if you have problems, or if you feel low or weepy and upset.

"The DVD tells you how to access the services and how you would be helped."

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