Becoming an anti-racist organisation:
progress update May 2023
Nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds on 25 May 2020 remains as one of the pivotal moments in the fight for civil rights and racial equity for people of colour in this country and around the world. That shocking event – the murder of George Floyd – sparked global outrage and collective resistance against racism, bigotry and prejudice and the fight for anti-racism.
Like other organisations, Rethink Mental Illness took a long, hard introspective look at itself and embarked on the uncomfortable, difficult but necessary conversations on what more we needed to become a truly anti-racist organisation and what it meant for us to be actively anti-racist rather than just simply not racist. We made a public commitment, expressed in our Anti-racist Statement and Race Equality Action Plan, that we become a truly anti-racist employer, campaigning organisation and service provider – and in our efforts to influence policy and wider societal factors impacting on mental health.
We knew that we needed to move from mere words and performative gestures to real and tangible action. Three years since the murder of George Floyd and since we published our Becoming an anti-racist organisation: Progress Update, June 2022 we can say that, whilst we know that there is still much more we need to do, we are making real and tangible progress on our commitment to becoming truly anti-racist organisation. Since we published our Race Equality Action Plan last year, we have:
- Increased the ethnic diversity of our Board of Trustees and Directors and we will seek to strengthen the ethnic minority representation in our Executive Director team.
- Launched our flagship Mutual Mentoring Programme, where we have paired our Executive Directors and Associate Directors with members of our Race Equality Action Leaders staff network. For our Executive Directors and Associate Directors this programme is strengthening the empathy for and insight of the lived experience of their ethnic minority co-mentors, for members of our Race Equality Action Leaders staff network the programme provides mentoring and sponsorship to help them progress their careers.
- Launched our Race Equality Action Leaders (REAL) staff network in June last year on Windrush Day to represent and elevate the voices of our ethnic minority staff across the charity. The staff network meets regularly and has held socials and hosted EDI and anti-racism events with external speakers. The network’s two co-chairs are members of the charity’s Race Equality Programme Board (chaired by the CEO) and the Race Equality Delivery Group (chaired by the Associate Director for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Race Equality).
- Delivered training on anti-racism, allyship, privilege, unconscious bias and what it means to be anti-racist to our Trustees, Executive Team (including the CEO and Deputy CEO) and Associate Directors.
- Delivered sessions on anti-racism in the inclusive behaviours management development training for all our managers to create a shared understanding of what it means for us to be a truly anti-racist organisation.
- Made recommendations which were accepted by the parliamentary Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Health Bill to include our proposals on tackling mental health inequalities in their pre-legislative report on the draft legislation. This included recommending:
- a statutory right to culturally appropriate advocacy
- a statutory right to an advance statement, which we know from evidence particularly supports people from minoritised communities.
- abolishing Community Treatment Orders which we know Black people are 11 times more likely to be placed on when they’re discharged from hospital.
- Proactively and publicly commented on cases where there is a clear intersection between racial injustice and severe mental illness, for example, in cases where Black men have tragically lost their lives after coming into contact with the police when experiencing a mental health crisis. We are working with key stakeholders such as the Independent Office for Police Conduct to explore how we can work together to support the police to better manage situations where mental health is a key factor.
- Researching the causes of why Black men are more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act through focus groups and desk-based research.
- We will publish our first report looking at inequity in accessing mental health services later this Summer and will use it as a springboard for influencing the health and care system.
- Working to improve the reach of our services to Black and other underserved communities so that we can effectively deliver our 2023-28 Communities that Care Strategy, which emphasises that people severely affected by mental illness can access high quality treatment in a timely manner, through a place-based approach.
- Improved the collection and evaluation of our service user data so that we can better understand who is using our mental health services and remove any barriers to access and adapt our service delivery to beneficiaries from Black and other minoritised communities.
- Continuing to invest in resource to take forward our EDI and anti-racism strategies and have recruited a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager and a Racial Justice and Equity Manager.
This is only some of the important work we are delivering to help us become a truly anti-racist organisation. We will keep working not only to make progress but also hold ourselves to account on our progress in eradicating racism and achieving racial justice and equity.