British Indians face barriers to accessing mental healthcare amid the rising cost of living, hitting a ten-year low.

Shefali Saxena Thursday 12th May 2022 04:02 EDT

According to the annual update of the Health, Wealth & Happiness Index from LifeSearch, compiled by Cebr, and with consumer insights including 500 ethnic minorities, Brits’ health, wealth and happiness remain at record ten-year lows with ethnic minority communities suffering most. The impact is even higher (52%) among people from ethnic minority groups; rising still among women in this community (58%) and among Pakistani/Bangladeshi ethnic groups (59%) – vs 46% of white Brits. 


The ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, combined with the cost-of-living crisis and the war in Ukraine, is having a devastating effect on the overall well-being of people living in the UK, with ethnic minorities suffering the most, according to the latest findings of the LifeSearch Health, Wealth & Happiness 2022 Index. Overall score has improved but mental health impact is significant with women, young people and ethnic minorities hit hardest. 


A triggering survey data published by The Guardian suggests that more than 2mn adults in UK cannot afford to eat every day. One in seven adults is estimated to be food-insecure, up 57% from January, owing to the rising cost of living. The latest survey of the nation’s food intake shows a 57% jump in the proportion of households cutting back on food or skipping meals over the first three months of this year, with one in seven adults (7.3 million) estimated to be food-insecure, up from 4.7 million in January. Mental Health Charity IronmongeryDirect has revealed that four in five UK tradespeople experience mental health problems due to work. 85% don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health.  Finances are the most common cause of stress.


Maytree, a suicide helpline told Asian Voice, “There’s no doubt that uncertainty around finances and economic precariousness can correlate with poorer mental health. Anything that creates instability, a perceived lack of safety, and interferes with a person’s ability to take care of their basic survival needs can add enormous pressure to what may already be a difficult situation. Worrying about the basics may also leave little room to think about seeking help.”


 Debbie Kennedy, Chief Executive at LifeSearch who commissioned the study said: “At a more granular level, our study reveals the pandemic pressures and consequences faced specifically by people in ethnic minority communities, where many have been hit harder over the last two years and the ripple effect may continue much longer. Many in those communities feel they’ve had to work harder, dig deeper and risk more to stay afloat.” 


LifeSearch consumer insights found that a quarter (24%) of all Brits feel less happy than last year, rising to 31% of those living alone and 28% of ethnic minorities, higher still (37%) among those of Indian heritage.  


Over a quarter (28%) of all Brits say they have saved money in the last year, averaging £276 per month (pm), rising to 33% of those from ethnic minority groups (at £329 pm on average). Furthermore, a greater number (38%) of people from ethnic minority communities have reviewed their spending over the last year, compared to just 22% of the wider adult population. 


Jabeer Butt OBE, CEO of the Race Equality Foundation commented: “Across education, finances and general happiness, it’s clear ethnic minorities are suffering. These major findings reflect our own knowledge that Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities continue to bear the brunt of the effects of the pandemic and cost of living crisis. We urgently need targeted support to take account of and effectively address these unequal impacts if we want to see a healthier, wealthier and happier Britain in the coming years.” 



Setting the house on fire to stay warm


Speaking to the newsweekly about the rising cost of living and its impact on mental health, Dr Dinesh Bhugra CBE, Professor Emeritus, Mental Health & Cultural Diversity, IoPPN, Kings College London said, “London fire chiefs have warned residents not to set fires inside their houses to stay warm. How did the sixth-largest economy in the world get to this stage? Ethnic minority individuals are more likely to be living in poor overcrowded conditions often with three generations living together- a factor which has been shown to be related to disproportionately high rates of death due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is well recognised that social determinants impact both physical and mental health. Poverty, unemployment, overcrowding, poor access to transport and lack of access to green spaces have all been shown to be related to high rates of mental ill-health in ethnic minorities who already show high rates of certain mental illnesses. Faced with this double jeopardy they already show pre-existing vulnerabilities to physical illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, arthritis etc. With high levels of cost of living it is imperative that vulnerable groups are looked after by communities by providing physical and financial support that individuals need.”

London Assembly Labour Health Spokesperson, Krupesh Hirani AM told us, “Financial stability and maintaining good mental health are inextricably linked. Coming on the back of consecutive lockdowns, the cost of living crisis is pushing some of the hardest pressed in our communities to the brink. Recent Government statistics show that last winter, over 1,500 Londoners with a history of mental health issues were facing the threat of homelessness and needed urgent support from their local council. This week, we have also seen the start of the migration of legacy benefit claimants onto Universal Credit. Those that are unable to submit their application and documents for the new system by the deadline could miss out on payments altogether. Charities are now warning that without Government intervention, the incomes of more than 700,000 people with mental health issues, learning disabilities and dementia could be put at risk.

 This Mental Health Awareness Week, we need the Government to act by restoring the uplift to Universal Credit and increasing Local Housing Allowance. A windfall tax should also be placed on the eye-watering profits of oil and gas companies so that proper help can be given to families and households struggling with their energy bills.”


Kiran Kaur Manku, Co-Founder of the 1928 Institute and Researcher Fellow at the University of Oxford told Asian Voice, “Financial and social adversity contributes to mental ill-health, particularly for ethnic minorities (Jaspal & Lopes, 2021). In our survey of over 1,700 British Indians, we found that Covid put 23% in financial hardship and worsened the mental health of 39% of respondents. This is particularly alarming given that we also found that 76% of British Indians face barriers to accessing mental healthcare. Within these barriers, 15% reported the barrier of costs. This infers that British Indians would not even attempt to seek support from the NHS. In the focus groups, there was a clear display of hopelessness and hesitation towards seeking help through GPs due to a lack of appropriate provision. This shows that not only will ethnic minority communities be facing further financial hardship, but their mental health will also be suffering, and they have limited or no access to adequate mental healthcare. We have been working with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and now regional NHS trusts in Suffolk and Essex to improve mental healthcare provision for the British South Asian communities. Although this work needs to be upscaled, efforts should also focus on promoting positive mental health and providing resources to alleviate financial burdens or barriers.”


Award-winning entrepreneur Sonya Barlow said, “According to widely distributed data, 1 in 4 of us suffer from mental health unwell being, but we all have had our moments in reality. It is estimated that almost 4 in 10 people say that financial situations are known to impact and worsen their mental health problems. Though limited, new research finds that  72% of entrepreneurs suffer from mental health unwell beings, primarily due to financial burden, either using their own money to fund the business, not gaining funding, or retaining funding when growing. Add to that the fact that brown women are paid at least 18% less than their white counterparts, whilst balancing the majority of the household duties still fall on the woman, and you can see the gap widening. As an Asian business owner, it's time to rethink what you are offering and possibly increase your prices.  For my own mental health, I’ve decided to focus on quality over quantity, meaning it’s about valuing my time per hour and saying yes to activities which align with my values. Additionally, encouraging my team to take numerous wellness breaks throughout the week, aligning our culture to tasks completed versus time spent online and embracing the small things our culture shares, such as afternoon chai pauses and lots of chatter. As a brown woman who suffers from chronic migraine and anxiety, I talk openly about my mental and emotional health well-being online to demystify the subject matter, be that through my social content, BBC show the everyday hustle or my various Ted talks, all founded because I was lonely.”

Chronic pain and mental health


Artist Eugenie Lee who is working toward expressing chronic pain through art said, “Pain is invisible. Proving it even exists is difficult – it doesn’t show up on a scan and there is no hard evidence of its presence. Communicating about pain can be problematic as it relies on the verbal accounts of the people who experience it, but these accounts are not always believed. These factors alone are enough to make the person feel isolated and guilty for not being able to contribute to the family or society as they used to. Without social support, this disjunction between who they once were and the person they now have become can lead to an existential crisis with a destroyed sense of agency. Persistent pain can dictate a person’s life. Everything they do must be planned ahead meticulously so that they are not left utterly incapacitated before their day ends. They need to re-assess and re-learn what they can and cannot do each day whilst acknowledging the unpredictable nature of pain." 

Enfield Saheli CEO, Krishna Pujara is holding an interactive discussion about ‘Overcoming loneliness & isolation’ as a part of their initiative to mark Mental Health Awareness Week. 


In a video message, Kate Middleton spoke about mental health among mothers. She said,  "We all know that pregnancy, childbirth and the first months and years of a child's life can be hugely demanding. Parents often feel lonely and overwhelmed by these early years. Around 20 per cent of women in the UK are reported to experience perinatal mental illness. Sadly, we also know that many more are suffering in silence."



NHS Research Unit launches to tackle inequalities within mental health services


A Research Unit, dedicated to researching inequalities in mental and physical healthcare, and to improving health outcomes for under-served populations, has been launched in Greater Manchester. The Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Research Unit (EDI-RU) will undertake research to better understand people’s lived experiences to develop learning and interventions that help to eradicate mental and physical health inequalities experienced by people across a range of protected characteristics like age, disability, gender, ethnicity, and religion.

Sharp increase in anti-anxiety prescriptions causes concerns of addiction


Researchers from the University of Bristol have found that there have been increases in incident prescribing of most anti-anxiety medications (called anxiolytics) in recent years, which have been substantial in 18–35-year-olds. The new study, published in The British Journal of General Practice, looked at GP prescription data and found 44% of prescriptions for an anti-anxiety medication known as benzodiazepine were consumed for more than four weeks, longer than the recommended maximum. Benzodiazepines are a habit-forming drug, leaving young adults at a huge risk of becoming addicted.


Well known author, businesswoman and crypto expert, Amber Asghar is also a holistic wellness therapist specialising in bespoke facials. She says that the skin is the first organ to show signs of distress and unhappiness. Her experience with skincare comes from her own personal journey where stress and a hectic lifestyle played a part in a number of skin issues. Amber now has a book on the science and treatment of skin in the pipeline.


While Rishi Sunak vows to 'look at all options' to ease the cost of living crisis, an overhaul of what Boris Johnson described as “antiquated” mental health laws will make it harder to detain people with learning disabilities and autistic people in hospital.

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