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A conversation with Brian about Mental health and the black community

Interviewer: Hello

Brian: Hello, it's been too long

Interviewer: It's lovely to hear your voice, quick introduction we met at Deliveroo while working there and the main thing I remember is your positive energy which was incredible, it's contagious

Brian: Well the main thing in life is you have to keep your environment positive

Interviewer: To be positive it does take strength, what keeps you positive?

Brian: for me personally I think everyday is a blessing

Interviewer: It definitely is, moving onto a topic more specifically with black people they are four times more likely to be detained under the mental health act then white people why do you think this is?

Brian: To be honest as a black man growing up,my mum used to send me to the shops every morning there used to be marches and they were really racist and we used to get told to go back to our countries and what have you. And I remember growing up and I said to my mum what do they mean? Bringing back to now and what I've learn't right now is how hard it is for a person who is going through that how they feel, it affects their mental health. You don't feel good enough sometimes. I'm always a believer that there's passionate and there's angry and there's misunderstood.

I love what you're doing because it's best to be spoken to by someone who knows what it is and understands that point of view rather than someone who couldn't quantify how that could possibly affect you and how you could possibly feel about that. I think by default we're quite passionate about what we've been through. Our heritage suggests that we are very passionate and prone to alot of situations which very few people understand. I think the only people who understand us is us to a certain degree because we're going to come at a different angle. There have been situations I have seen where people just get medicated because it's easier. You need someone to talk to someone to relate to, that's why I love the term 'I Can Relate' because you need someone to relate to. It's so important.

Interviewer: So what you're saying is these practitioners they're not relatable so they are just reading from a text book essentially?

Brian: Yes, why not go through a process of saying 'why are you going through this? How can we help you. There is also a stigma attached to it. I think there needs to be more understanding and more one to ones and more perspective in the medical world to say 'I understand what you are going through'

Interviewer: Wow that's deep and I know that because I've been there I've sat in front of a doctor and they've spoken to me and there's a disconnect, there's not a straightforward - 'yes I understand'

Brian: Yes if you're going to someone with a problem you want to be going to someone who is open armed. You don't want to be at the door and thinking 'ah hang on I don't want to go over there because they're going to be thinking one way or the other'

Interviewer: But how do we get around that? Can you teach someone to be that way?

Brian: You can. I think if we live with the old school bible where we teach people. You've got to research. It starts from somebody like yourself who looks at a person and says 'hey guys I am not going to look at you a certain way, I'm not going to judge you in any shape or form' and words get around and it gets so much easier. Because we're quite complex people. It's very hard. Like with everything it's education and understanding. And being able to feel that you can go to somebody with non judgemental approach

Interviewer: That leads us to another topic of conversation- black people are less likely to seek help because they've not got the trust in institutions such as the police who have let them down. What do you feel about institutional racism and mental health?

Brian: I think the trust factor we can address this right now. Look around you nobody listening to this podcast can say 'there's no such thing' we can all live in ignorance if we want to, It's very much in our faces it's a very tough topic with what's going on around us. With our mental health we have to look at in in a very tough way, for example our young teenagers if that racism is going on in a job interview. Self esteem, mental health it all goes down down down, not feeling good enough, empowering, I don't use that word very often but it's about empowering people to feel better about themselves.

Interviewer: And it's interesting because black people are more likely to access mental health services through a police or criminal justice route. According to statistics black adults have the lowest mental health treatment rate of any ethic group at 6% compared to 13% of the white ethnic group. That might be something to do with what we were speaking about earlier that they are least likely to go and seek help.

Brian: It might go back to the fact that our parents dealt with alot, our grandparents dealt with alot. There's a mental health issue there because to go through what you've gone through you are so strong, it's inherent within us, you know if I had a twinge I wouldn't go to the doctor, I'd say you know what I'm going to rub a bit of deep heat on it. I'm being honest with you.

Interviewer: Is that how you've been brought up?

Brian: Its more or less how it is, that's how it is.

Interviewer: What would you do if it was mental health would you do the same?

Brian: Yes probably. Unless you have somebody you can relate to how do you know?

Interviewer: Education, Knowledge

Brian: Knowledge to know what you are going through, do not be ashamed, do not let anyone make you feel a way about it, you are going through it and there's a process and we're going to get you through it.

Interviewer: If you had mental health and you had the knowledge of it would you tell your friend would you tell someone close to you?

Brian: I would. I wouldn't make it a broad thing. But by rights I should be able to say it to anyone. But it's inherent within us being the complex characters we are.

Interviewer: With black masculinity aswell, in the media, black people have to be seen as resilient, they have to be strong, when a black person has to show their vulnerable side it's alien to them

Brian: Yes and that can cause a lot of pressure aswell, some people see it as a sort of superhero attitude, which could actually be more damaging because alot of people alot of celebrities have to adopt a certain attitude but behind closed doors they are going through so much. And you know what they say the person who is the most positive is going through stuff themselves. Its a very difficult very complex situation with us.

Interviewer: Another fact, black people are more likely to experience pyschosis then any other ethnic group. Do you know what psychosis is? I'm talking about having hallucinations, hearing things, having a false perception of reality. I think it might be related to PTSD because 8% of black adults have symptoms relating to PTSD but most likely due to violence and police brutality and being marginalized from society, as a result of all these variables, they can all affect a black persons mental health. Because of PTSD I believe that black people are more likely to experience Psychosis because they are going through their own post traumatic stress.

Brian: I mean it's not easy. I know a situation where a black man was going for a job interview in a three piece suit and the police pulled up and the person never got to the interview unfortunately. All the guy said to the police was 'why did you stop me?' and they said 'Because there have been burglaries in the area. And he said 'what in a three piece suit? and they said 'well your getting cheeky'. To have that trigger in your mind can affect everything. Whereas that person can walk past you and its fine but if it's you personally it can be perceived a certain type of way. It's hard.

Interviewer: Have you experienced racism?

Brian: Yes on many levels

Interviewer: Sorry to hear that

Brian: You know whats funny? I call it education

Interviewer: In what way?

Brian: because of many different factors, If you've grown up around it and you're a certain age group your parents are that way, it's education, I've grown up with it, I'm aware of it, I know how to circumnavigate it, being a chameleon which is a big thing with black men. Lets face it if someone goes to a job interview as they are it might not be good enough. And this all affects your mental health because its saying 'am I good enough?' 'Why can't I go to facebook and say I want to be CEO, Why can't I go to google and say I want to have the top job in that company?' You could do and I believe you can but I believe every individual has to have that self esteem that ability to think that I am good enough. If a person believes they can go to the top of a mountain they can. But its a self esteem issue.

Interviewer: If you're in that position it can lead to depression, anxiety

Brian: It's an ongoing cycle. At the end of the day mentors are needed. You need a snow plough to plough that direction.

Interviewer: it's alot to do with trust. I love how everything you have spoken about has been so honest and open and positive you haven't got a defeatist attitude. We have to have the knowledge. We have to have the knowledge.

Brian: We have to and we can



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