BAME people grieving loss of loved ones to Covid say they're seeking support that 'doesn't exist'

Rukhsar Abbas lost her father and uncle who died with covid within hours of each other. Credit: Rukhsar Abbas

People from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who are grieving the loss of their loved ones have told ITV News they feel like they are searching for bereavement support that 'doesn't exist.'

Coronavirus has left thousands of families grieving for their loved ones, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds. Data has shown the virus has disproportionately affected those from BAME backgrounds - leaving many struggling with their mental health.

Diverse Cymru says referrals of BAME people asking for support with mental health have nearly tripled during the pandemic.

They say issues range from the fear of going out because of the virus, looking after family members, to feeling like they were not being listened to by their GP about their mental health.

Brothers, Raza and Ghulam, from Newport died within hours of each other in April. Credit: Rukhsar Abbas

Rukhsar Abbas, from Newport, lost both her father, Ghulam, and her uncle, Raza, who both died with Covid within hours of each other in April.

She says the day her father and uncle passing away was like a ''nightmare''.

''Family couldn't come into the house, they were just standing at the window. But not being able to see them both before they were buried was the hardest thing. We're not healing. No one can replace him''

Rukhsar says seeking help from a non-BAME counsellor would be difficult as the culture and traditions of the Muslim faith may seem 'alien' to some.

What support is available?

Nileema Ali, from Swansea, co-founded the 'Muslim Counselling Service' to try and help match Muslims with counsellors who can relate to them.

''There is a gap. Muslims recover better if they are counselled by another Muslim, and that's just from an empathetic perspective, in terms of understanding their cultural and religious background.''

Nileema says more diverse counsellors are needed to be more representative and understanding towards those seeking help.

Barnardo’s have also recognised the need for services those from ethnic minority backgrounds, and set up a nationwide helpline for BAME families, called ‘Boloh’.

Families, like Rukhsar's, have been left grieving the loss of their loved one who died with Covid-19. Credit: Rukhsar Abbas

They say they have had people seeking help for bereavement, anxiety, racism and financial worries. Leethen Bartholomew, who is heading up the service, says inequalities have been 'exacerbated' by the pandemic.

''These groups have faced structural inequalities, health inequalities, and we know that during the pandemic this didn't stop, it was exacerbated.''

The Welsh Government has set up a race equality forum to examine why and where these inequalities lie.

For Rukhsar, she is honouring the memory of her father in accordance with her faith. In Islam, helping the poor in the name of those who have passed is encouraged.

''The best way we can help someone who’s passed away in the Muslim faith is helping the poor in their name and in their honour. We held onto that idea and came up with the idea that maybe we should get water wells built in my day’s honour. So we raised over £5,000 in his name.''

If you or anyone you know is in need of support, there are a number or organisations who can help: