Call to boost BAME engagement with youth mental health services

By Joe Lepper

| 07 March 2019

A university professor is calling for a national strategy to tackle inequalities that mean young black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are less likely to access mental health services early.

Researchers examined referral routes to child and adolescent mental health services for different ethnicities. Picture: Monkey Business/Adobe Stock

Young people in this group are twice as likely as their white British peers to be compelled to access mental health help, such as via the courts, social workers, custodial settings or probation, according to the research from the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families.

By contrast, white British young people are most likely to access help voluntarily through their GP and other primary healthcare providers, the research paper Ethnic Differences in Referral Routes to Youth Mental Health Services, shows.

Researchers collected data from 14,588 young people who accessed child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and looked at referral routes for different ethnicities.

The authors claim the research has important implications for service planning, responses to mental health need, understanding of diversity and the planning of access to services by different ethnic groups.

They are calling for CAMHS and other referral organisations to prioritise early identification and support for young people from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Report co-author Dr Julian Edbrooks-Childs, associate professor of clinical, educational and health psychology at University College London, said: "The findings of the present study suggest that young people from minority ethnic backgrounds were more likely to be referred through different routes such as social care/youth justice compared with white British majority young people.

"Understanding the reasons for these differences is critical for reducing inequalities and improving pathways to mental health care access in young people.

"National and local policy and practice guidelines should prioritise engagement between youth mental health services and local referring organisations to ensure early identification and appropriate intervention for young people from minority ethnic backgrounds."

Among white British young people, one in 20 are referred to CAMHS from social care or youth justice routes.

However, the proportion doubles to two in every 20 among mixed-race, Asian and black young people.

Half of all referrals among white British young people are through a primary healthcare professional such as a GP, the research found.

But the proportion falls to eight for every 20 among referrals of mixed-race children and seven in every 20 children of Asian and black heritage who are referred to CAMHS.


Research published in December suggests that BAME young people are more likely to refer themselves voluntarily to informal support provided by specifically trained youth workers than that provided in more formal settings such as CAMHS.

The research, looking at the experiences of more than 2,000 young people accessing charity-run mental health services found that more informal settings are seen as less stigmatising and are also being provided in more accessible locations.

blog comments powered by Disqus