Following a meeting between colleagues from Local Solutions and Mary Seacole House, we asked the charity to compile a blog for us to outline the work of this vital service and to reflect on the particular barriers they feel are affecting BAMER communities and the additional issues created by Covid-19. We wish to thank Alex Coombes, Saiqa Sahotra and Reihana Bashir from Mary Seacole House for contributing this blog for our website.
What does Mary Seacole House do?
Mary Seacole House (MSH) is a mental health charity and resource service that offers support, advice and advocacy primarily for BAMER (Black, Asian Minority Ethnic Refugees) communities. It has a track record of delivering mental health services for over 25 years and is place where people with diverse social and cultural backgrounds can come together in a friendly, open, safe and non-oppressive environment.
Mary Seacole House encompasses:
- Day Service – providing emotional and practical support on a one to one basis on issues that are impacting mental health in addition to groups and activities designed to improve the health and wellbeing of its members.
- BAMER Family Service - supports families in many aspects of their lives including welfare rights, housing and debt, school and education, social care and mental health systems. Courses are also run throughout the year.
- Mental Health Advocacy Service - primarily supporting those from a BAMER background, this service ensures its client’s rights are upheld and their voice is heard. It supports clients to make informed choices in relation to their mental health and challenge inappropriate practice.
Who was Mary Seacole that the project is named after?
Mary Seacole was an incredible woman and inspiring role model. She was born in Kingston on the Caribbean island of Jamaica in 1805. Her father was a Scottish soldier and her mother was a Jamaican nurse and healer. From a very young age she had an interest in medicine and nursing. Best known for her work in helping the sick and wounded – particularly during the Crimean War. She died in 1881 in Kensal Green, London.
What are the particular barriers that service users form the BAMER community experience?
There are number of barriers which people from BAMER communities face - both from within their community and throughout the service provision process. These barriers make BAMER communities vulnerable and they feel at risk of being excluded, ignored and mistreated.
Barriers experiencing by these groups are:
- lack of understanding and confidence
- lack of knowledge of services and support available for people
- problems within the primary and secondary health care system
- language barriers/communication barriers
- cultural factors, such as an inability to accept mental health problems and stigma
How has Covid-19 exacerbated disadvantage in local communities?
Covid-19 has exacerbated many of the inequalities that already existed in the communities MSH works with. This includes, issues around social isolation, the digital divide and language barriers. Many of the services and activities our service user’s accessed have been postponed and others moved online. The reality is that some of our service users simply cannot afford broadband or dio not have access to smartphones or laptops. Some of service users have never had to use digital platforms such as Skype or Zoom before making communication and accessing support difficult.
Difficulties with language has further disadvantaged some of our communities. There has been a large amount of government guidance that has changed frequently and although significant efforts have been made by those in authority to make guidance available in a number of languages it has been a challenge to ensure our service users are up to date the latest information.
What change would you like to see made to make a difference?
There are some changes that would improve the health and wellbeing of the communities MSH works with. There is still a significant stigma around mental distress. Making it more acceptable to talk about mental health and to be able to access support easily would make a difference. Having services that offer interpreters as the norm rather than the exception would make a tangible difference to the mental health of the service users we work with.
Liverpool is fortunate in that it has a particularly diverse number of communities. An increased awareness and understanding by professionals of the different cultures in Liverpool and how they view mental distress would go a long way to improving mental health. Finally, any further shift away from the medical model of mental distress that is still predominate, would make a beneficial difference to the communities MSH serves.
How can people access your service or make a referral?
We also take self-referral which can be done by contacting the organisation via the above email or telephone number (0151 707 0319) and a member of staff will call back and assist the person to complete the rereferral form.