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Together as One Trust has organised a series of 15 workshops on the effects of COVID 19 on mental health. Each workshop lasts for about an hour with comfort breaks. Funding from the National Lottery has been very instrumental in facilitating these workshops. All meetings are virtual – via ZOOM, due to the restrictions on mass gathering. Using expert knowledge and experience such as that of a Forensic Psychiatric Practitioner, we are offering professional support to manage and cope with mental health issues that resulted from COVID 19. Our target population are the youths (13 – 24-year-olds) of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) group of Greater Manchester.


Why the Focus on BME?

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 1 in 4 people who died in the UK from Covid-19 were from the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) group. However, only 13% of the UK population is made of this group. So, the impact of covid-19 on this ethnic group is disproportionate. Why is this?

  • People from this group occupy the lower tier in society’s economic and social strata. 

  • Also, their lifestyle choices are determined by their income hence limited access to good quality of goods and services. Experience shows that people with less money tend to eat unhealthy foods.

  • People with less money also tend to engage in unhealthy habits such as taking substances for example drugs, and alcohol, less physical exercises.

So, poverty has a correlation on how covid-19 is impacting on their health. Furthermore, people with underlying health conditions are more at risk of suffering the impact of the pandemic than those without such conditions. The conditions include:

  • High blood pressure

  • Diabetes

  • Obesity and many more.

People from the BME community have a higher chance of developing these conditions. Part of the reason is that their diets have a lot more fats and palm oil, more salt etc.

Cultural factors include

  • Religious/spiritual beliefs – people believe that their faith can protect them when they are ill. As a result, some of them do not seek medical help on time, rather praying and fasting in the hope that the illness will go away. Consequently, many people do not receive appropriate medical attention which in many instances may lead to prolonged sickness, further complications or death.

A Typical Session

  • Our workshops often begin with a brief introduction by a representative of Together as One Trust. The Resource Person/Facilitator then takes over.

  • He gives us the scientific facts concerning COVID 19 and mental health. These sessions are fully participatory therefore, attendees are allowed to spontaneously join in if they have questions or contributions.

  • At the end of this expert presentation, the platform is opened for general discussion by all. Ensuing discussions are quite lively and the following facts emerge:


The impact of covid-19

  • Being scared following the outbreak of the pandemic.

  • Difficulty socializing and mostly staying indoors.

  • Consequently, mental health issues such and stress, anxiety and depression kicked in.

  • Worried about contracting and or spreading the virus to loved ones.

  • Struggled using online lesson materials provided by institutions as this was not the same as usual learning method such as classroom settings.

  • Because we did not actually take the GCSE exams, and grades rather estimated by teachers I felt disadvantaged by the grading system.

  • Extra stress and anxiety caused by exams situation.

  • Being at home meant too much schoolwork to catch-up on and not knowing where to start at some stage.

  • Difficulty separating home from schoolwork time and one had to be at home 24/7.


Coping with covid-19

During an interactive session with the youngsters, the Forensic Psychiatric Practitioner brought out the following points to be taken on board to help manage the impact of covid-19 on the mental health of young people from BME communities:

  • Focusing on self and not giving up on exams simply because of the current covid-19 related challenges.

  • Not to turn to social media for answers.

  • Talking about one’s feelings to family members and people you trust.

  • Connect with people around your family and close friends.

  • Exercise and go out for walks and be as active as possible.

  • Avoid going out with peers who are a bad influence to avoid for example sexual exploitation and other crime-related activity.

  • Start dealing with tasks that are easy to do and everything will feel better and lighter.

  • Talk to professionals if parents are not able to help, such as your GP or dial 111 for advice.

  • Other organisations that might be able to help include Minds, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 

  • Eat healthy foods, loads of fruits and vegetables.


Five ways to well-being

  • To connect – establish, maintain positive and healthy relations with the people around you such as family/friends, look for warmness and social network of support

  • Being active – physical activities are good for people’s mental well-being. A walk or going to the gym for instance, access to online videos is possible

  • Learning new things, gaining new knowledge is always so enriching an experience as well as rewarding

  • Emotional resilience: bouncing back from a setback – how? Being able to look at t bright side of things, pick yourself up etc. being able to build your resilience is a good way of arming oneself to better manage mental health

  • Available support, for example, MIND, a mental health charity, TAOT, African Mental Health Foundation (AMHF). When people disconnect from their immediate social networks, consequences can include grooming, radicalization, seeking support from the wrong places, they may even build up this bond from outside or get drawn into regrettable acquaintances. If you find yourself feeling apart from the people around you, speak to someone trusting enough say from a church community, parents, or any other trusted individuals such as your GP, or counsellor 

Anger: happiness and sadness etc.. are emotional responses to situations. It is not a bad thing to be angry. What is bad is what you do when you are angry. So, it is not the emotion but the behaviour accompanying the emotion that might be the problem. For example, no one goes to jail for being angry, but they go to jail because of what they do when they are angry. Mention must be made of the fact that anger is good because it tells you that you are human and you have feelings and you can respond to situations.

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