alexa Abstract | Community development approaches to working with groups of people with mental health problems to promote race equality in mental health

Diversity & Equality in Health and Care
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Abstract

Community development is a process whereby people come together to address shared concerns. Community development workers (CDWs) support these processes, promoting justice and equality. In the UK, CDWs have had a long history of adapting to different contexts, but when in 2005 they were introduced within mental health services to promote race equality, expectations were said to be too high. This study explores the role of CDWs by focusing on how they worked with peer-led groups of people with mental health problems to increase race equality in terms of well-being and mental healthcare. Employing a two-step process, the study began with a survey to find out which CDWs worked with people with mental health problems, what this involved and how they felt about working with peer-led groups. A diverse sample of those who prioritised work with peer-led groups of people with common or severe mental health problems was selected for semi-structured interviews to explore their purpose, activities and perspectives, using thematic analysis. A total of 46 CDWs responded to the survey, representing approximately 11% of the workforce. Most of them worked with people with mental health problems to promote inclusion, well-being and engagement, and four of them sought to help groups to pursue their own goals. Nine CDWs were selected for interviewing and, despite the small sample, three distinct approaches to their work were identified. The first approach supported service user-led groups to address the power imbalance in services, the second approach supported community- led groups to promote social inclusion, and the third approach focused on policy implementation and outputs.  Differences were associated with CDWs’ previous experiences of mental health and workplace context. Conclusions can only be tentative due to the small sample size, but the findings suggest that CDWs can promote race equality in mental health services, using diverse approaches to community development. However, few of them appear to help service user-led groups to pursue radical change.

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Author(s): Patience Seebohm

 
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