29 August 2014
Getting to the heart of the matter
Bristol staff went on a cultural tour to get to the heart of the
mental health needs of the city's diverse communities.
This was a key strand of a programme to create a positive
culture in the new model of community services in Bristol and
ensure people are treated as individuals regardless of background,
disability, gender, age or any other reason.
Staff with a key role in carrying out equality impact
assessments for the new services went on the tour of religious
centres including a Hindu temple, a mosque and a Sikh temple and
met people from the Somali and Irish Traveller communities.
It was a chance to get a grassroots perspective on what mental
health and wellbeing means for those communities and to hear how
barriers could be overcome. For example, the group heard how in
some groups the very idea of mental illness is taboo, which creates
enormous challenges for people whose health needs might not be
recognised by their communities.
Service manager Steve Batson highlighted common understanding of
what mental illness means as a main learning point of the day.
"There's a massive gap between how some groups perceive their
needs and how they might access services," says Steve.
"So for example someone might go to see their GP with what they
see as a physical problem like headaches, but behind it there is a
mental health need. So a barrier is the lack of a common
"A large proportion of people have also come here having
suffered some kind of trauma which culturally they feel they ought
to just put up with and get on with life - but there's a problem
there that's never been dealt with and that can stand in the way of
Team manager Scott Witherstone said the day was the best piece
of diversity training he has ever been on - high praise indeed.
"It was a brilliant introduction to the diverse communities of
Bristol and it opened my eyes to the needs of so many groups," says
"There is nothing like getting out and making contact with
people, so to be able to visit all those religious and community
centres and talk to people face-to-face was just so valuable in
helping to appreciate their needs better.
"In particular, I was really moved by the barriers to healthcare
faced by Irish Travellers and the challenges they go through on a
The programme was put together by SARI (Stand Against Racism and
Inequality). Participants included staff from AWP, Second Step and
Knowle West Health Park.