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We just want to be included. We feel included here.
In this blog, Michaila Tope, who leads the Build Bridges project, tells us about how it helps in engaging people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and helping them to better access mental health support following the pandemic.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, the nation’s mental health is facing huge challenges. As well as being a time of great uncertainty, our health and social care system is under immense pressure. This has made getting support much harder for many people, especially those from already underserved communities – prolonging the negative impact of Covid-19.
In Birmingham, the Building Bridges project is working with Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller (sometimes abbreviated GRT) communities to reduce mental health stigma and improve access to mental health support and services.
As marginalised communities they experience much higher-than-average rates of suicide. They also lack access to support and services for a multitude of reasons including discrimination. In addition, due to poorer living conditions and close family networks, GRT communities are likely to have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. However, there is a lack of data that would provide the full picture.
In this Health Inequalities Impact Assessment, conducted by the NHS as part of their Long Term Plan, it states that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people “continue to experience some of the most significant barriers to accessing health care and poor health outcomes”.
The project works closely with the communities to identify the most appropriate messages and means of intervention/support required. Key learnings will be identified which can be replicated with other Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller communities across the country.
The engagement so far has been really positive. Attending one of the groups, we had a family who were nomads in Romania (their country of origin) and now live in south Birmingham in social housing. This is what they told us (with their 11 year old child able to provide a translation!):
“Sunt asa de fericita ca acum mama mea si prietenele ei au unde sa vina. Cateodata lumea rade de noi ca suntem din Romania, si ma intristeaza. Vreau doar sa fim inclusi si noi, aici ne simtim inclusi”.
“I’m so happy my mum and her friends now have somewhere to come. We sometimes get teased because we are Romanian and that makes me sad. We just want to be included. We feel included here.”
While you’re here, I’d also like to point out that June is Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history month! Do take a look at the informative resources available online to find out more about these communities and their rich histories.
From unloved junk room to loved rest and relaxation room
Here’s an update from the team at Albany House about the completed refurbishment project:
The room has been refurbished to create a designated work area, sleep area, and relaxation area. To make this happen, we moved the WIFI network box downstairs. This also had the added benefit of improving the connection! New carpet and underlay was put down, which has greatly helped to reduce the noise of the boiler. We’ve also fitted a new celling light which helps make the room feel lighter and brighter when it’s on. We wanted to make the funds go as far as possible, so we repurposed an old TV and put this up on the wall, alongside a mirror. We cleared away the clutter and moved the bed so it’s no longer blocking the heater. We also bought some new bedding and under-bed storage. We also purchased a comfortable chair where staff can sit and relax and read or watch TV. From an unloved junk room where staff had to sleep, to a loved room where staff can rest and relax and feel appreciated. Thank you for helping to make this happen!
Bringing communities together to increase understanding
The Building Bridges project aims to work with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities across Birmingham and the West Midlands to reduce mental health stigma and improve access to support and services. Suicide accounts for 1-in-10 Traveller deaths and rates are 6 times higher than the general population.
Since launching in January, the project has worked closely with community organisations, healthcare providers and the local councils to reach out to GRT communities with 11 different groups now engaging with the project. A regular weekly coffee morning has been set up and is attended by approximately 20 families who come along and discuss mental health. More than 30 GPs, health visitors, council workers and community group representatives have also signed up for a training conference focused on GRT culture and history on the 23rd May. This is the first of a series of conferences scheduled to increase understanding among service providers on the challenges and discrimination faced by GRT communities and how to work with communities to identify solutions and increase engagement.