Islington Mental Health Programme to Create Better Future for Young Black Men and Boys

The launch event of the Young Black Men and Mental Health programme at Platform Youth Centre in Islington

The three-year programme, named “Young Black Men and Mental Health”, will see a holistic approach to addressing mental health issues among young Black males in Islington, with the aims of improving personal mental health and wellbeing, aspirations and life opportunities, while reducing exclusions.

One strand of the training programme includes a course, recently completed by five Islington barber shops, that will equip them with the skills to recognise that a customer may be struggling with their mental health and point them towards appropriate support. Barbers will be trained as mental health ambassadors, and will act as catalysts for improving mental wellbeing.

Councillor Roulin Khondoker, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Equalities, Culture & Inclusion, commented: “Our vision is for a more equal Islington, where everyone has the opportunity to start, live and age well, which is why mental health is so important to us. We know, though, that young Black men do not currently enjoy an equal opportunity to thrive, and are more likely to live in deprived neighbourhoods, be excluded from school, and be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. It’s so important that we act now to create a better, more equal future for young Black men, where they too can turn their dreams into a reality. The Young Black Men and Mental Health programme is key to achieving this. This holistic, pioneering programme, will help young Black men with the mental health challenges they face, and support them to create a better future.”

Research shows that two thirds of permanent school exclusions are Black pupils, and 60 per cent of Black people in England feel that they are treated with less courtesy or respect as others because of their ethnicity. These inequalities have serious impacts on mental health – Black men in Britain are 17 times more likely than white men to be diagnosed with a serious mental illness, and four times more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

It’s clear that more needs to be done to create a better, more equal future for young Black men and boys. That is why the council and partners are launching the Young Black Men and Mental Health programme.

The programme has been made possible thanks to a £1.6 million investment from the Violence Reduction Unit and NHS North Central London Integrated Care Board’s Inequalities Fund, a programme which invests in community-based collaborative projects such as this to improve equity of access to services, outcomes and life chances amongst under-served communities and groups in North Central London. To support the programme, Islington Council has worked with RAW London on a short film about the pressures of growing up as a young Black man in London. The video can be seen in full here.

Councillor Jason Jackson, Islington Council ward councillor for Holloway, who has been heavily involved in the programme, said: “Growing up as a young Black man in London is extremely challenging – it can often feel like the world is stacked against you. The Young Black Men and Mental Health programme is designed to empower, guide and support young Black men and boys as they face these challenges. Through the programme, we’re taking on structural and institutional racism, to help shift the practices, assumptions, and perceptions that could be holding young Black men and boys back.”


Cllr Jason Jackson speaks during the launch of the Young Black Men and Mental Health programme


John McGrath, an Islington GP, added: “As a local GP, I know that many people are struggling with their psychological and mental health. We know that sometimes people find this difficult to know how to talk about and may have concerns that local services don’t fully understand them. We are delighted to be working together on this innovative and ambitious project to change the dial on how we think and talk about mental health with young Black men in the local community. Whether in barber shops, schools or in local youth centres, we want to support our young people to thrive and achieve their goals.”

Further information on Islington’s Challenging Inequality strategy can be found on the council’s website