• Abou Seif, Campbell, Chase, Ching, Hahn & Schlief

CALL TO ACTION: The Mental Health of BAME Communities During COVID-19

Updated: Aug 18

Written by Nada Abou Seif, Amy Campbell, Angela Song Chase, Brian Chi Fung Ching, Jane Sungmin Hahn & Merle Maria Schlief. Co-produced with Zenni Enechi.

This blog aims to provide an overview of the impact of COVID-19 on BAME mental health. It has been written for a wide range of people, and as such, has been co-produced with a review panel of diverse ages, qualifications, and ethnicities.

As of the 15th of August 2020, there have been 41,361 deaths due to COVID-19 in the UK [1]. As we know, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on physical health across the world [1]. However, it has also had a large impact on mental health and will likely continue to do so [2]. With existing social and health disparities [3], this then raises the question of what impact this will have on the mental health of BAME communities specifically.

COVID-19 has resulted in health and financial concerns for people around the world, which has increased reported feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression [4-6]. One study showed that 21% more people reported poor mental health during the pandemic than before it [7]. Although lockdown and self-isolation measures have been implemented to protect us from COVID-19, they are also associated with negative mental health effects, such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, stress, confusion, and anger [8-10]. Certain factors may increase the risk of experiencing these mental health consequences, such as [4,10]:

  • Being hospitalised for COVID-19

  • Loss of loved ones and interrupted grieving (e.g. not being able to attend funerals)

  • Higher exposure to infection (e.g. frontline work)

  • Occupational factors (e.g. job loss)

  • Social vulnerabilities and inequalities (e.g. poverty)

People from BAME communities are more likely to be exposed to these potentially traumatic risk factors. BAME populations are more likely to work on the COVID-19 frontline, with 20% of NHS employees being BAME [11], despite only making up 13% of the UK population [12]. BAME groups are also less likely to be able to work from home during the pandemic, with Black people being more likely to work in care roles than other groups, and Pakistani and Bangladeshi people being more likely to work in operative roles [13]. This is clearly translated into increased COVID-19 infection and death rates in BAME populations, as the Public Health England [14] report states that they are more likely to require admission to intensive care compared to White-British counterparts, and that being Black, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, or Indian increases the likelihood of dying from COVID-19 by 1.5-1.9x. Almost 35% of Black adults report knowing someone who has died or been hospitalised due to COVID-19 versus only 19% of Hispanic people and 18% of White people [15].

These greater rates of death and infection have a great impact on people’s anxieties during this pandemic - in comparison to White people, Black and Hispanic individuals are more likely to be concerned about contracting COVID-19, being hospitalised, and unknowingly spreading the virus [15]. BAME communities may be additionally fearful that members of the public may perceive them to be of high risk and thus, feared, avoided, or even mistreated, which may worsen well-being even further. Given their increased exposure to risk factors for poor mental health, it makes sense that BAME individuals report significant dismay and fear that they have been hit the worst by the pandemic [16].

The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of BAME people is also likely to worsen disparities that already exist in the way BAME individuals experience mental health care. People from BAME groups are less likely to seek help for their mental health [17,18]; this may be due to cultural stigmas associated with help-seeking [19], BAME people feeling that clinicians have a poor understanding of different cultural needs [20], and even expecting or experiencing racism within services [21]. Indeed, there is evidence that BAME people are less likely to be offered suitable therapies, and Black persons in particular are more likely to be involuntarily hospitalised or over-medicated in UK mental health services [17, 18]. If a BAME mental health crisis were to occur due to COVID-19, BAME people may not seek support from services which are currently ill-equipped to respond compassionately or appropriately.


Given that BAME communities experience greater exposure to risk factors for poor mental health, and the pandemic has emphasised social and health disparities in the UK which have been repeatedly linked to poorer mental health in BAME communities [35-40], attention and resources must be focused on understanding and protecting the mental health of BAME individuals. Where do we go from here?

  1. It is crucial that we foster an environment where individuals of ethnic minorities are actively encouraged to take up space as mental health professionals, whether in a clinical or research capacity. They should be represented at all levels of the professional ladder, including leading roles.

  2. The ability to explore and understand other cultures must be viewed as a vital skill. Therefore, all mental health professionals should undertake cultural competency training wherein their own biases are acknowledged and addressed. This should encompass an awareness of the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on BAME groups that leads to compassionate, trauma-informed practice and treatment of BAME individuals both during and after the pandemic [37].

  3. Future mental health research should aim to gain a rich understanding of BAME experiences primarily through active involvement of BAME people in designing and producing research and by engaging BAME individuals in qualitative research, such as interviews [41]. This could also serve to foster better relationships between the research community and ethnic minorities [37].

  4. Moving forward, research should break down the “BAME” grouping and fully reflect all of the diversity within the people they are studying [42]. Current research often includes only a small number of BAME individuals, restricting researchers to the comparison of “White” vs “BAME”. This is unlikely to provide an accurate representation of BAME mental health [43], as homogenising the experiences of ethnic minorities results in a loss of nuance.

Applying these recommendations will allow us to better understand the social and political context that ethnic minorities live within and the potential traumas associated with it [44-46]. This understanding will enable us to develop and implement a mental health care system which works for every individual. Although our focus is on mental health, these recommendations are applicable to every discipline, and each discipline should strive to independently carry out inclusive and collaborative work. However, to build the most comprehensive understanding possible, disciplines should band together. We believe that the recommendations above should be the standard for future research and clinical work. Currently, addressing issues of ethnic minorities is generally a secondary aim, if an aim at all. However, the aim of research and clinical work is to understand and benefit the human experience. If we do not understand and benefit the experience of ethnic minorities, then this has not been achieved.

If you would like to learn and do more, here is a helpful list of accounts and websites to visit:

Instagram accounts to follow:

+ – Black mental health resources and therapy for Black trauma

+ @inclusivetherapists - A resource for accessible therapy for all identities, promoting BAME therapists and cultural affirmation, including training for therapists.

+ @diveinwell - An online community space for diversity in wellness.

Twitter accounts to follow:

+ @PsychSocChange - Psychologists for social change

+ @MinoritiesGroup - Supporting minoritised groups within clinical psychology

+ @Equalitytrust - A UK Charity aiming to improve quality of life by reducing socioeconomic inequality

Websites to visit:



We would like to extend a big thank you to our panel of reviewers: Aarinola Ayo-Ipaye, Honey Ajisefini, Elymma Mensah, Jae Youn Jung, Kam Bering, Kanchelli Iman Yaa Iddrisu, Tasinda Bering & Teja Singh.


  1. GOV UK (2020). Coronavirus. Retrieved from

  2. Torales, J., O’Higgins, M., Castaldelli-Maia, J. M., & Ventriglio, A. (2020). The outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus and its impact on global mental health. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 0020764020915212.

  3. Marmot, M. (2020). Health equity in England: The Marmot review 10 years on. Bmj, 368.

  4. Fitzpatrick, K. M., Harris, C., & Drawve, G. (2020). Fear of COVID-19 and the mental health consequences in America. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy.

  5. Park, C. L., Russell, B. S., Fendrich, M., Finkelstein-Fox, L., Hutchison, M., & Becker, J. (2020). Americans’ COVID-19 Stress, Coping, and Adherence to CDC Guidelines. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 1.

  6. Shapiro, E., Levine, L., & Kay, A. (2020). Mental health stressors in Israel during the coronavirus pandemic. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy.

  7. van Agteren, J., Bartholomaeus, J., Fassnacht, D. B., Iasiello, M., Ali, K., Lo, L., & Kyrios, M. (2020). Using Internet-Based Psychological Measurement to Capture the Deteriorating Community Mental Health Profile During COVID-19: Observational Study. JMIR Mental Health, 7(6), e20696.

  8. Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet.

  9. Li, L. Z., & Wang, S. (2020). Prevalence and predictors of general psychiatric disorders and loneliness during COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. Psychiatry Research, 113267.

  10. Boyraz, G., & Legros, D. N. (2020). Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and Traumatic Stress: Probable Risk Factors and Correlates of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 1-20.

  11. NHS Workforce (2020, January 6). Ethnicity facts and figures. Retrieved from

  12. Office for National Statistics (2011). Census: ethnic group, local authorities in the United Kingdom 2011.

  13. GOV UK (2020). Employment by occupation. Retrieved from

  14. Public Health England (2020b). Disparities in the risk and outcomes of COVID-19. Retrieved from

  15. Pew Research. (2020). Health concerns from COVID-19 much higher among Hispanics and Blacks than Whites.

  16. Public Health England (2020a) Beyond the data: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups. Retrieved from

  17. Bhui, K., Stansfeld, S., Hull, S., Priebe, S., Mole, F., & Feder, G. (2003). Ethnic variations in pathways to and use of specialist mental health services in the UK: systematic review. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 182(2), 105-116.

  18. McKenzie, K., & Bhui, K. (2007). Institutional racism in mental health care. BMJ Editorial, 334(649).

  19. Clement, S., Schauman, O., Graham, T., Maggioni, F., Evans-Lacko, S., Bezborodovs, N., ... & Thornicroft, G. (2015). What is the impact of mental health-related stigma on help-seeking? A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative studies. Psychological Medicine, 45(1), 11-27.

  20. Islam, Z., Rabiee, F., & Singh, S. P. (2015). Black and minority ethnic groups’ perception and experience of early intervention in psychosis services in the United Kingdom. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 46(5), 737-753.

  21. McLean, C., Campbell, C. & Cornish, F. (2003). African-Caribbean interactions with mental health services : experiences an dexpectations of exclusion as (re)productive of health inequalities. Social Science & Medicine, 56(3). pp.657-669

  22. Public Health England (2020c). COVID-19: epidemiology, virology and clinical features. Retrieved from

  23. Grierson, J. (2020, May 13). Anti-Asian hate crimes up 21% in UK during coronavirus crisis. Retrieved from

  24. Liu, Y., & Finch, B. K. (2020, March 23). Discrimination against Asian, Black Americans more likely amid coronavirus pandemic. Retrieved from

  25. Eichelberger, L. (2007). SARS and New York's Chinatown: the politics of risk and blame during an epidemic of fear. Social Science & Medicine, 65(6), 1284-1295.

  26. Misra, S., Le, P. D., Goldmann, E., & Yang, L. H. (2020). Psychological impact of anti-Asian stigma due to the COVID-19 pandemic: A call for research, practice, and policy responses. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

  27. Liberty Investigates (2020, May 26). BAME People Disproportionately Targeted By Coronavirus Fines. Retrieved from

  28. National Police Chiefs’ Council (2020, May 15). NPCC issues update on fines given during Covid lockdown. Retrieved from

  29. UK Government (2020, March 19). Stop and Search. Retrieved from

  30. Alang, S., McAlpine, D., McCreedy, E., & Hardeman, R. (2017). Police brutality and black health: Setting the agenda for public health scholars. American Journal of Public Health, 107(5), 662-665.

  31. Bor, J., Venkataramani, A. S., Williams, D. R., & Tsai, A. C. (2018). Police killings and their spillover effects on the mental health of black Americans: a population-based, quasi-experimental study. The Lancet, 392(10144), 302-310

  32. Tynes, B. M., Willis, H. A., Stewart, A. M., & Hamilton, M. W. (2019). Race-related traumatic events online and mental health among adolescents of color. Journal of Adolescent Health, 65(3), 371-377.

  33. McLeod, M. N., Heller, D., Manze, M. G., & Echeverria, S. E. (2020). Police interactions and the mental health of Black Americans: a systematic review. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 7(1), 10-27.

  34. Gajwani, R., Parsons, H., Birchwood, M., & Singh, S. P. (2016). Ethnicity and detention: are Black and minority ethnic (BME) groups disproportionately detained under the Mental Health Act 2007?. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 51(5), 703-711.

  35. Majors, R. (2020). Black Mental Health and the New Millennium: Historical and Current Perspective on Cultural Trauma and ‘Everyday’ Racism in White Mental Health Spaces—The Impact on the Psychological Well-being of Black Mental Health Professionals. In The International Handbook of Black Community Mental Health. Emerald Publishing Limited.

  36. Chakraborty, A. P. U., & McKenzie, K. (2002). Does racial discrimination cause mental illness?. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 180(6), 475-477.

  37. Fortuna, L. R., Tolou-Shams, M., Robles-Ramamurthy, B., & Porche, M. V. (2020). Inequity and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color in the United States: The need for a trauma-informed social justice response. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

  38. McKenzie, K. (2006). Racial discrimination and mental health. Psychiatry, 5(11), 383-387.

  39. Pieterse, A. L., Todd, N. R., Neville, H. A., & Carter, R. T. (2012). Perceived racism and mental health among Black American adults: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(1), 1.

  40. Paradies, Y., Ben, J., Denson, N., Elias, A., Priest, N., Pieterse, A., ... & Gee, G. (2015). Racism as a determinant of health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS one, 10(9), e0138511.

  41. Bhui, K., Halvorsrud, K., & Nazroo, J. (2018). Making a difference: ethnic inequality and severe mental illness. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 213(4), 574-578.

  42. The Exchange, by De Montfort University (2020). COVID & RACIAL INEQUALITY. [Webinar]

  43. Pareek, M., Bangash, M. N., Pareek, N., Pan, D., Sze, S., Minhas, J. S., ... & Khunti, K. (2020). Ethnicity and COVID-19: an urgent public health research priority. The Lancet, 395(10234), 1421-1422.

  44. Burgess, R. (2020). COVID-19 mental-health responses neglect social realities. Nature, World View. [Editorial]. Retrieved from:

  45. Lee, C. S., Rosales, R., Colby, S. M., Martin, R., Cox, K., & Rohsenow, D. J. (2020). Addressing social stressors in a brief motivational interview improve mental health symptoms for Latinx heavy drinkers. Journal of Clinical Psychology.

  46. Novacek, D. M., Hampton-Anderson, J. N., Ebor, M. T., Loeb, T. B., & Wyatt, G. E. (2020). Mental health ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic for Black Americans: Clinical and research recommendations. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication.


©2020 by COVID Trauma Response Working Group. Proudly created with