From surviving to thriving

6 October 2014

Written by: Cllr Ed Davie

Health and Wellbeing

Hundreds of residents have contributed their ideas to the Lambeth Black Health and Wellbeing Commission which launches its report in Black History Month and on World Mental Health Day this Friday 10 October.

Read more to find out how Lambeth has risen to the challenge of coming up with ideas to improve the mental health and wellbeing of our residents of African and Black Caribbean heritage.

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From surviving to thriving

Our collaborative approach has been shortlisted for a Health Service Journal Award and has attracted charitable funders who want to implement the plans.

The background to the commission

The aim of the commission was for residents, the council, NHS and others to come up with practical ideas to improve the prevention and treatment of mental health with our black communities. It followed the coroner’s report into the death of black musician Sean Rigg, who died after police officers restrained him during a schizophrenic episode.

Experts told the commission that black men are 17 times more likely than their white counterparts to be diagnosed with a psychotic illness. Whilst 26% of Lambeth’s population is black nearly 70% of the borough’s residents in secure psychiatric settings are of African or Caribbean heritage. The commission was determined to tackle this inequality and focused on generating ideas to improve prevention, access to appropriate services and patient experience.

Who was involved?

Service users, councillors and NHS professionals on the commission heard that poverty, neglect and abuse can all be important factors in making mental illness more likely. The commission recommendations to improve housing, job creation, parenting skills and support for those at risk from abuse and neglect have all been accepted by Lambeth’s Health and Wellbeing Board which brings council, NHS and community together.

Groups like Brixton Soup Kitchen, Block Workout and Kids Company have all helped the commission understand the gap between people who need help and the formal services that should support them. As a result the commission recommends giving these kinds of groups the skills and connections they need to help and signpost people. By spreading power and skills we help tackle inequality and reach the most vulnerable. It is also vital that more children are supported as fewer than 20% of Lambeth’s young people with a mental health condition get any formal help at all.

On patient experience we have called for an end to physical restraint in hospitals and for police officers to be trained with black mental health service users so that they always respond humanely to people in distress. If people feel confident that they will be well treated by public servants there is a better chance they will seek the help they need early enough to make the most positive  difference.

Last Spring we tested these, and other, ideas with over 150 residents who freely gave up their Saturday and contributed their own thoughts to the finished report.

At Brixton Splash, the Lambeth Country Show and a Vauxhall All Nations Church event hundreds more residents have signed up to find out more and potentially act as wellbeing champions in their communities.

Part of the problem the commission uncovered is that some people have a negative perception of psychological problems.  So it’s great that England’s biggest programme to tackle mental health stigma, Time to Change, is joining us on October 10 to launch their London Black African and Caribbean anti-stigma campaign – Time to listen.

Throughout October and November Time to Listen will be in Lambeth encouraging people to speak openly about mental health ,to help end mental health discrimination in Black African and Caribbean communities.

Come to the launch event on World Mental Health Day

The Brixton launch event will feature live performances, speeches, great food and the opportunity to meet and speak to volunteers about their experience of living with mental health issues.

We hope people will join us to launch this work and the commission report at 6pm, Friday 10 October at the Lambeth Assembly Hall. It’s World Mental Health Day in Black History Month so let’s use it to really make positive changes.

To register interest in attending the free launch please email

Find out more

For a full list of events and to get involved with the Time to Listen Campaign please visit