'It's a perfect storm': The mental health impact of coronavirus and BLM movement felt in communities

By ITV Wales journalist Tahmeena Alam

People from black and ethnic minority backgrounds have told ITV News the coronavirus pandemic and the events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement has affected their mental health, leaving them feeling "anxious" and "angry".

In April, the health minister said there needs to be an "urgent investigation"  following growing evidence that coronavirus is having a 'disproportionate' impact on ethnic minority communities.

The following month, Black Lives Matter protests took place across the globe following the death of George Floyd.

Nirushan is a student in Cardiff and said the last few months have left him feeling "anxious, angry, and upset."

''You're anxious not just for this time but for the future as well. It's really upsetting as a person from a minority community to think that these things could happen to you. It made me feel like I could be discriminated against because of my skin colour, or what my name sounds like.''

Munirah, Nirushan and Samiyah speak about BAME related issues on their podcast.

He started a podcast called 'Let's Talk Ethnic' with friends, Samiya and Munirah, discussing the topics of inequality ethnic minorities can often face in health, the criminal justice system, and accessing services.

''It's far from normal for us,'' said Samiyah.

As lockdown is eased across the country, Samiyah said she feels the need to "protect" herself more because of her ethnicity.

''Theres extra pressure. BAME people are dying at disproportionate rates and I do feel like I need to protect myself - and at 21 years old you don’t think like that.''

People from BAME backgrounds are less likely to access counselling despite being more likely to develop mental health conditions. Munirah said it is because of stigma within the community, as well as within mental health services.

"It’ll be someone who doesn’t understand your culture, language or your family set up. They’ll think you’re just seeing things, looking too much into it, religious reasons. I’ve spoken to a few youths recently and they’ve said they don’t know where to seek that help.''

Diverse Cymru say they are working with health boards in relation to mental health, such as stigma and language. Credit: ITV Wales

Diverse Cymru provide support, services and advice to BAME people affected by poor mental health. They said they have seen more people come forward in the last few months.

''Its a perfect storm of Covid and racism. We talk to health boards about some of the issues that face BME backgrounds in terms of mental health like stigma. We need to be more open in the community about mental health and make sure people receive the support they need around the time that they need it'', said Zoe King, the acting joint CEO of the charity.

Amey, a singer-songwriter, struggled with a traumatic childhood, which was left unaddressed.

It wasn't until postpartum psychosis she recognised she needed support. Now in her 50s, Amey said her counsellor, who by chance was BAME, "changed her life".

Susan Cousins was a counsellor for 20 years. She said more conversations need to be had with those who use the services for needs to be met.

In a statement, the Welsh Government said it will be reviewing their Mental Health delivery plan 2019-2022 to identify where changes can be made in response to COVID-19. It will include additional action on how to better support BAME communities access mental health.