Black Minds Matter founder Agnes Mwakatuma opens up about mental health in the Black community

Black Minds Matter founder Agnes Mwakatuma opens up about mental health in the Black community

BLACK MINDS MATTER.

Black Minds Matter (BMM UK) was set up to connect Black individuals and families with free mental health services by professional Black therapists to support their mental health. 

To make this happen, they make mental health topics more relevant and accessible for all Black people in the UK, removing the stigma and remodelling the services to be relevant for the Black community.

Creative Moment founder Lucy Smith spoke to founder Agnes Mwakatuma about why she decided to do this, what surprised her from the research and what the creative industry can do to offer more support.

Lucy Smith: The report conducted by Black Minds Matter looks at quantifying the state of mental health within the Black community in the UK. Why did you decide to do this?

Agnes Mwakatuma: There's very limited and inaccurate data on Black mental health in the UK. Where research has been done it almost always encompasses all of the 'BAME' community and therefore discounts the specific mental health issues of the communities that fall under the term.

Not only that but research is undertaken in an extremely Eurocentric way and racism within research exists all the way through the process, starting with those who sit at the very top who get to decide what research is worth funding and what may be too 'niche'. This means there is a serious lack of funding on Black mental health research, therefore it becomes our responsibility to conduct the research ourselves- if we're in a position to do so.

This survey was just the very beginning of our efforts to conduct research which will help our understanding of Black mental health and work towards creating a positive and long term impact within our community.

LS: From the research, what surprised you most?

AM: What I found interesting was that the resurgence of BLM was more detrimental to peoples' mental health than the Covid-19 pandemic. I'm not sure if it surprised me as such , because in one sense the Covid-19 pandemic is very much a collective suffering and mental toll, whereas the trauma of the BLM resurgence was felt only within our community and still during a pandemic that was disproportionately affecting us due to systemic inequality.

It was also really great to see that 43% of respondents agreed that they have considered/reconsidered looking into accessing therapy or other professional mental health services in the UK. This is great because it shows that we are impacting even those who aren’t on our waitlist which is amazing to see.

Black Minds Matter founder Agnes Mwakatuma opens up about mental health in the Black community

LS In terms of the creative industry, what do you believe can be done to offer more support?

AM: I think there can be a lot more support offered from people at the top of the industry and organisations in terms of actually allocating funds to non-profits and building long term partnerships with grassroots organisations.

There's also so much that can be done in terms of volunteer support and offering advice to help guide new organisations such as ours where there is so much to think about all the time and less access to valuable resources needed to create sustainable growth.

Aside from that, it's important that the support isn't just something to be shown in a campaign or on Instagram. There needs to be real tangible steps taken inside businesses to not only ensure that more Black people are offered fair opportunities but also that they are creating an environment that is psychologically safe for Black and other non-white groups of people.

LS: What is your biggest worry for the future?

AM: As a charity, you're always worried about whether you will have enough funding and support to continue to do the work you do but also having the resources to be able to grow the organisation in the way that it is needed for the community you are serving. Being such a young organisation - not yet one year old - not having those resources is definitely a worry of ours, which is why it's important to look at ways you can attract long term support and communicate the importance of your mission well.

We were able to launch during a time where there was a massive spotlight on racial injustice and a huge momentum behind the movement, so being able to keep this up and continue to keep people engaged in the mission is also a worry. Our biggest worry is the thought of having to turn down clients seeking out mental health support in the future due to a lack of funding. Although we raised £800,000, the charity is spending nearly £75,000 a month on therapy invoices alone. This has meant we have had to rely on the assistance of volunteers (who aren’t available to support full time) instead of being able to grow the organisation’s resources and team effectively.

LS: With 77.4k followers on Instagram, this is obviously a key communication channel for you. Tell us about some of the stuff you are doing there.

AM: Instagram is a great space for us to share the experiences of our community and bring greater attention to the why of what we're doing. We launched our #BMMUK21K Donor Challenge in March, which is essentially our big push to ensure we can survive beyond a year and secure long term support through monthly donations of £5 to BMMUK. That was a great space for us to launch it as that's where our community engages in our work.

We also collaborate with trusted voices to share their wellbeing advice, from self-care tips, to book recommendations, personal mental health journeys etc. It's also important that we are able to highlight the voices of those who have used our service, to communicate the benefits of therapy and the impact that it truly can have. By having these conversations so often, we're opening up the space for people to be more honest about their mental health struggles and hopefully feel less shame in seeking help when they need it.

Black Minds Matter UK need long term support to ensure they can last another year. To help them do this, they're looking for monthly donors, who are willing to donate £5 per month as part of their fundraising campaign - the #BMMUK21K Donor challenge.

Click here to become a monthly donor and help BMMUK create a lasting change on Black mental health.

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