My name is Fatima and I have recently finished my undergraduate Psychology degree in London.  I have been a Girls’ Network ambassador since 2017. Being a part of their mentoring programme allowed me to appreciate my full potential as a young woman and recognise the power that I hold, especially as an individual from a minority background. 

As a South Asian female, I have experienced challenges that have impacted my mental well-being. At first, these challenges hindered my likelihood of seeking professional support. However, studying Psychology helped me to learn that having mental health problems is normal and I should not be treated any differently. 

This sparked an interest - why did I think it wasn’t okay to have mental health challenges? Why didn’t I seek help? Do other young people from South Asian backgrounds feel the same way? 

Therefore, I decided to focus my dissertation on this topic and the question I sought to answer was - is there a difference in help-seeking behaviour between people from BAME backgrounds and White individuals for anxiety? 

The short answer is yes. Much research has demonstrated that people from BAME backgrounds show higher symptoms of anxiety. For instance, The Mental Health Foundation (2021) found some individuals from BAME backgrounds had higher rates of mental health problems. 

My research supported this as I also found significant differences in anxiety levels between White students and those from BAME backgrounds. Students from these minority ethnic backgrounds demonstrated more anxiety compared to their white counterparts. I also found that there is a lack of help-seeking behaviour portrayed by these individuals. This may be due to the norms and values they grew up with, which could have affected their perspective in seeking support. 

Existing inequalities among ethnic groups can also influence their anxiety levels and attitudes towards help-seeking. Some suggest this might be due to barriers such as stigmas around mental health and differences in cultural/ethnic backgrounds. In the case of BAME communities, being mistreated (racism, microaggressions, discrimination) by service providers, or not having individual differences valued by professionals can influence negative attitudes towards help-seeking for mental health issues. These experiences may produce further challenges, as people from the BAME community may feel misunderstood, perhaps decreasing their self-worth. 

Moreover, the Health & Social Care Information Centre in 2013 reported that BAME individuals made 9.6% of qualified psychologists. Clearly demonstrating there is a lack of professional representation which may hinder help-seeking behaviour. 

Raising awareness around this topic can help individuals, especially young women who take part in programmes like those offered by The Girls’ Network. The ONS (2020) found an increased risk of anxiety and depression (26%) among young females compared to previous years. Therefore, talking about this topic, and reducing stigmas could help. It’s also important that we promote interventions to teach professionals ways to cater to their BAME clients and increase more professional help-seeking among BAME individuals. 

From personal experience, I know that asking for help is hard and perhaps daunting to some. But learning more about the disadvantages experienced by the BAME community has encouraged me to raise awareness around this topic and aim to reduce the negative attitudes surrounding seeking support.  

Remember that there are many people who care and are willing to support you. There are great services out there who can help you feel valued and find strategies to cope. So, please remember that you are not alone. 


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