The ‘one-size-fits all’ approach to mental health services is excluding women – this must change

Here at The Maya Centre, our free counselling service is available to women who need it in Islington and surrounding London boroughs. This means we’re always working to ensure that our diverse team of experienced counsellors reflects the local community. Our counselling is offered in several languages to women from minoritised communities and includes Turkish, Albanian, Kurdish, Farsi, Urdu, Bengali/Sylheti and Somali among others.

We know that this work needs to continue. The reality is that many services are simply unable to adapt interculturally to the perspectives or needs of women around mental health and wellbeing. In fact, just last month, a group of experts highlighted the problem by calling out the ‘one-size-fits all’ approach in the UK which creates barriers for South Asians seeking mental health help.

“There’s a huge issue around conceptual understanding around what mental health actually is within the South Asian community,” Dr Tina Mistry, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Brown Therapist Network, told Sky News for a special report, citing cultural and language barriers as the most common reason for low engagement.

Dr Mistry believes the NHS uses a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, which means that for many people accessing services, it “doesn’t quite match or fit their conceptual needs and cultural needs”. She added: “This is a huge issue because it isn’t going to be cured overnight. It’s a two-way conversation that needs to happen between the service providers and the community.”

According to data provided to Sky News for the report, 2,195 per 100,000 Asian people access NHS secondary mental health services, which is 4,030 per 100,000 for their white counterparts. Uptake stands at 3,307 per 100,000 for Pakistani people and 3,407 per 100,000 for Bangladeshi people. It’s lowest for the Indian community, where only 2,195 per 100,000 are seeking help.

We are really keen to keep pushing on our community development approach to women’s mental health

Emma Brech, CEO of The Maya Centre

“These statistics are sobering and most likely not representative of the real need out there; on the other hand, it’s important not to make assumptions,” says Emma Brech, CEO of The Maya Centre. “We are really keen to keep pushing on our community development approach to women’s mental health: welcoming women with cultural humility and curiosity about their lives and perspectives on their wellbeing; acknowledging the barriers and oppressions they may have experienced within the UK which have affected them adversely; – and crucially – supporting them to access services on their own terms. 

“Not all women will choose psychological therapies as a means of supporting their mental health – however, ensuring women know about what services are on offer and can access the flexible, tailored support they need and want, is crucial.”

If you are a woman who meets our criteria and would like to access our services, please get in touch via our contact page.

Images: Getty