Islington Council launches new mental health programme for young Black men and boys

Islington Council and the NHS announced a new programme for improving mental health and creating a better future for young Black men and boys, on Tuesday.

The programme, called Young Black Men and Mental Health, is a three-year project which aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing, aspirations and life opportunities, while reducing exclusions, for young Black men in Islington.

In Britain, Black men are 17 times more likely than white men to have a serious mental illness and four times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Cllr Jason Jackson, Islington Council ward councillor for Holloway, said: “Growing up as a young Black man in London is extremely challenging – it can often feel like the world is stacked against you.  

“The Young Black Men and Mental Health programme is designed to empower, guide and support young Black men and boys as they face these challenges.”

The programme has four strands, beginning with a training scheme equipping five Islington barber shops with the skills to spot when their customers may be struggling with their mental health.

A video created by Islington Council and the Young Black Men and Mental Health Programme, introducing the Barbers Project

Additionally, three Islington secondary schools will be allocated a full-time trained counsellor as part of the Becoming a Man programme, delivered alongside the Mental Health Foundation, which aims to support young Black men with their long-term mental health.

The programme will also see Elevate Innovation Key Workers trained to provide support to those aged 16 to 25 at risk of exclusion from school, youth violence and health difficulties.

Finally, the plan will provide a cultural competency programme for groups such as the police, schools and GPs.

Cllr Roulin Khondoker, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Equalities, Culture & Inclusion, spoke of the current unequal opportunities for young black men, more likely to live in deprived neighbourhoods and be excluded from school, and the affect this has on mental health.

However, Cllr Khondoker hopes the programme will work to help young Black men with mental health challenges and support them to create a more equal and better future.

“Our vision is for a more equal Islington, where everyone has the opportunity to start, live and age well, which is why mental health is so important to us,” said Cllr Khondoker.

A £1.6 million investment from the Violence Reduction Unit and NHS North Central London Integrated Care Board’s Inequalities Fund helped to provide the funds necessary for the programme, with the aim to improve access to services, outcomes and life chances amongst under-served communities and groups in North Central London.

Islington council mental health
Cllr Jason Jackson speaks during the launch of the Young Black Men and Mental Health programme credit: Islington Council

John McGrath, an Islington GP, said: “We are delighted to be working together on this innovative and ambitious project to change the dial on how we think and talk about mental health with young Black men in the local community.

“Whether in barber shops, schools or in local youth centres, we want to support our young people to thrive and achieve their goals.”

For more information on how Islington Council is challenging inequality, visit their website.

Featured Image Credit: Islington Council

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