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Greater Manchester’s Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities can now access extra mental health support during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to an innovative partnership between health leaders and the voluntary sector.

Commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the six new services will be run as pilots by local voluntary sector organisations over the next four months.

  • Manchester BME Network CIC – support for south asian communities
  • Yaran Northwest CIC – support for middle eastern communities
  • Wai Yin Society – support for the Chinese community
  • Caribbean and African Health Network (CAHN) – support for the African and Caribbean communities
  • Jewish Action Mental Health – support for the Jewish Community (leaflet)
  • TS4SE- developing capacity building with a focus on refugee communities

The overall aim is to provide culturally sensitive support to people from BAME groups who are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Data from Public Health England shows that people of Bangladeshi ethnicity are around twice as likely to die of COVID-19. Those who are Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, from other Asian backgrounds, or black are at 10 and 50% higher risk. This is often faced in addition existing mental health challenges from isolation, loneliness, trauma and even forced migration.

Individuals can self-refer to the new services so no need to be referred by a GP or other health professional.

The pilots will be monitored and evaluated over the coming months to judge whether they will be extended further. Initial funding, a total of £120,000, will come from a new Government fund earmarked for additional local spending in response to COVID-19.

Dr Sandeep Ranote, Medical Executive Lead for Mental Health, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said:

“The deep impact COVID-19 has had and continues to have on BAME communities has left many with worries, anxieties and loss. That’s why these new services are so important as they are specifically targeted to address the mental health and wellbeing needs of our diverse communities – and early indications show that they are already proving effective.”

“Our voluntary sector partners had been doing some amazing work in this area for some time so were well placed to step up and provide this additional support. I’m really proud that the Partnership has played a part in making this happen. It’s a brilliant example of how we do things differently in Greater Manchester, with joint working and a vibrant and diverse voluntary sector.”

Charles Kwaku-Odoi, Chief Officer, CAHN, said:

“The Caribbean and African Health Network is delighted to be part of a collaboration with other Greater Manchester BAME-led organisations responding to the impact of COVID-19. Our Emotional and Wellbeing Support Service has seen increased demand from people with mental health in our community. Our black counsellors are responding to anxiety, stress, and other forms of emotional issues.  In addition to counselling therapy in English and French, we offer befriending, awareness-raising workshops, and practical support for members of our community.”

Dr Sarah Ogbay, of the Greater Manchester Eritrean Community (a refugee-led community organisation working with TS4SE) said:

“This pandemic and the lockdown has been extremely hard for everyone, but many people in our community have suffered loss and grief in isolation, because the guidance is hard for people who don’t speak English to understand. This project means that we can get information and help out to people who might be isolated, worried and unsure of what to do.”

Jonny Wineberg, Trustee, Jewish Action for Mental Health, said:

“Both Jewish Action for Mental Health and Neshomo are hugely grateful to Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and other funders for their support for our joint working. The funding has covered increased costs as we looked to meet a huge increase in demand for our befriending, mentoring, counselling and therapy services. Over 80 people have received support so far and this looks set to increase in the coming weeks and months.”

Atiha Chaudry, Chair, Manchester BME Network, said:

“The impact of COVID-19 has been significant and disproportionate for BAME communities across the country and we know that this is mirrored across Greater Manchester. We are delighted to be part of a collaborative that has responded to the mental health and wellbeing needs of BAME communities as a consequence of this impact.”

Parvin Emampour, Clinical Operations Director, Yaran, said:

“Yaran has been providing online bilingual mental health services to middle eastern residents across Greater Manchester, including bereavement counselling and help in accessing remote provision of statutory services. Our new online COVID-19 mental health service provides clear, simple guidance with translation into different languages. Our drop-ins, COVID-19 befriending and mentoring groups, and one-to-one support are a lifeline for service users. We are adapting our services so they can be delivered remotely, whilst at the same time developing new ways of offering in-person support while observing social distancing and infection control guidance.”

Circle Steele, Chief Executive Office, Wai Yin Society, said:

“East meets West is a project led by a team of Chinese counsellors and psychotherapists, who are not only helping Chinese people to process grief, trauma and mental illness in culturally appropriate and sensitive ways, but are also empowering them to build resilience and adaptational skills to overcome this uncertain time.”

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