Emmanuel Obimah, Council of Deans of Health Student Leadership Fellow, leads group exploring how cultural beliefs of nurses and other healthcare professionals affects their perspectives on mental health.
On Monday 5th December 2022, the School of Health & Psychological Sciences hosted a student led event to explore the perspectives of nurses and healthcare professionals from a variety of international backgrounds, but with a specific focus on those of migrant healthcare workers from Africa.
The event was organised by Emmanuel Obimah, Council of Deans of Health 150 Student Leadership Fellow and Postgraduate Mental Health Nursing student at City, University of London.
Michelle Ellis, Associate Dean for Equality, Culture and Engagement at the School of Health & Psychological Sciences
Associate Dean for Equality, Culture and Engagement at the School, Michelle Ellis, welcomed participants to the event and encouraged them to interact with the speakers, while also assuring them that there would be a wider opportunity for a free-flowing group discussion afterward.
Emmanuel Obimah, Council of Deans of Health 150 Student Leadership Fellow and Postgraduate Mental Health Nursing student at City, University of London.
Mr Obimah spoke first, outlining his personal experience of how cultural beliefs in his home country of Nigeria had influenced how some people with mental health issues in his community were incorrectly perceived by others, and consequently, poorly treated and not given the support they required to get better.
For example, he cited a cultural belief that mental ill health could be caused by negative spirituality, particularly the concept of ‘spirit possession’, whereby the person with mental health difficulties is not believed to be in control of their own bodies, and not the same person anymore.
He shared how this led some members of the community to consider the person with mental health difficulties as ‘not human’ and open to be treated accordingly, and that this belief was still widely held within healthcare settings in his country, adversely affecting patient outcomes.
Mr Obimah stressed that similar beliefs are commonly held in many cultures of the African diaspora, and which he has witnessed within families and indeed from nurses and healthcare professionals in his time working in the UK.
His call to action was to constructively challenge such beliefs and offer evidence-based alternative views of mental illness to effect change over time in these communities. This would help more people with mental health issues access appropriate care, and enable nurses and other healthcare professionals from these communities to optimally deliver such care.
Calvin Moorley, Professor for Diversity & Social Justice at the Adult Nursing Department, London Southbank University (LSBU)
Calvin Moorley, is Professor for Diversity & Social Justice at the Adult Nursing Department, London Southbank University (LSBU) and Emmanuel Obimah's mentor on the Council of Deans of Health Student Leadership Programme.
He followed Mr Obimah by sharing his extensive experience of working with a diverse range of communities in nursing and healthcare settings and with colleagues from a wider range of cultural backgrounds in the UK. He highlighted how culturally held beliefs could impact not only people’s views of others with mental health issues, but intersecting characteristics, including gender and sexual orientation, and that it takes time for strongly held cultural beliefs to change within different communities.
Student speaking at the group discussion facilitated by Emmanuel Obimah
A free flowing discussion among the wider group of participants at the event then took place, facilitated by Mr Obimah.
A diverse range of experiences were shared about studying, and practising mental health care, and of experiencing mental health issues in particular cultures, including those from African, Caribbean, European and South American communities.
Student sharing their views and experiences during the group discussion
A common theme was the question of how mental health nursing and healthcare students can advocate on behalf of their service users while on placement when their registered colleagues may have different views to them. In response, Michelle Ellis shared the different ways students can report any such concerns while on placement, including the support they can seek to do so and to look after their own mental health and well-being.
Reflecting on the event, organiser and facilitator, Emmanuel Obimah, said:
The event is aligned with the commitment of the School of Health & Psychological Sciences to the Athena Swan Charter, a framework which is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education (HE) and research.