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Guest Blog Post - Laura Jayne Frontline Therapist

Gambling, gaming and addiction in the Black and Asian community.

Mental health has become a pertinent subject in the black and Asian communities. It is imperative to acknowledge that we all have mental health, just as we have physical, emotional and psychological health. However, mental health issues differ; each individual recognises a neurological challenge, which may affect their daily activities.

When we explore the narrative around mental health in the black and Asian community, for centuries, it has been deemed as almost non-existent. The stigma around Black and Asian mental health can be traced back to colonisation and culture.

Often mental health within the black and Asian community goes unnoticed. According to Mind organisation, 23% of black people experience mental health problems, which is higher than our white counterparts, totalling 17%. With that said, many people from across the BAME communities refuse mental health support due to various reasons such as masculine perception, pressure on black visibility (being identified as ‘strong’ for reasons that are not ethical), cultural limitations and most importantly, lack of resources.

When we explore how individuals from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community may respond to their mental health challenges, it is important to explore coping mechanisms and behavioural patterns. Gambling and gaming is a common theme within the BAME community, whether private betting or well-known betting industries. The gambling commission has found that many are drawn to the thrill gambling ignites.

The Gambling Commission (2021) found that there has been a rise in the number of men from the BAME community spending time within the betting and gaming industries over the years. Thus, when we explore the perception of black men, in particular not feeling as expressive with their emotions, a coping mechanism to neutralise these feelings could be the sense of community and excitement from the gambling and gaming experience.

Whilst we acknowledge the detrimental effects gambling and gaming have on individuals, as a community, we must first recognise the symptom and its mental toll and treat the issue.

How do I seek support?

Seeking support for addictions can feel uncomfortable before they become one of the supportive steps we could take. If you are intensively involved in hyperactivity around these habits, seeking support from local support groups, counselling services, and your GP would be the first step.

The HarmLess Community of Practice project is an initiative that seeks to support diverse communities with gaming and gambling addictions by reaching those who work on the frontline, and other interested parties.

Frontline therapist is a counselling directory that aims to provide low-cost counselling to the Black and Asian community. This essentially dismantles the stigma that therapy isn’t for the BAME community.

And lastly, the BAATN directory (Black and Asian network) is a directory that promotes many qualified counsellors who can hold a safe space to support individuals explore their narrative.

With that said, once we recognise that stigma is mainly attached to projections and lack of access to critical information, we will feel much safer in seeking support for our challenges.

on considerations when providing therapy to black and Asian communities.

Therapy with the Black and Asian community:

When we speak to clients from black and Asian backgrounds, there is an emphasis on clients wanting to experience relatedness, cultural competence and a shared understanding around their experiences. When journeying in therapy with clients from black and Asian backgrounds regardless of your background as a therapist, empathy, congruence, listening and holding a safe space are important therapeutic skills to have. However, when a therapist who identifies from a white background takes the seat as a therapist for a black and Asian client, it is important to be culturally sensitive around scenarios that may come up. Clients will already be aware that the historical experiences are different. However, it is imperative to be present with the feelings. Whilst researching on themes that may come up in sessions regarding clients cultures is a good idea, one must be aware that sometimes not all information online is accurate, and the best person to ask about what is coming up is the client themselves.

Key points to consider when you are working with black and Asian clients:

1) If you are unsure, ask. (Being authentic and congruent allows a better therapeutic alliance)

2) Research themes in your spare time as part of CPD and general knowledge. (This may increase your confidence to be able to connect with clients better.)

3) Remember to identify and work with the feelings.

4) Notice the transference/ countertransference between you and your client.

5) Try immediacy to address behaviours that you may notice in the sessions that may reflect on the possible racial differences.

Written by Laura Jayne

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