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Equity, diversity and taking an anti-racist stance: one year on from our commitment

25 August 2021

Children's handprints

In August 2020, we published Our commitment to equity, diversity and taking an anti-racist stance. This commitment came about as a collaboration between colleagues across the Evidence Based Practice Unit (EBPU), the Child Outcomes Research Consortium (CORC), the Anna Freud Centre and UCL in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It acknowledges that there is much more we should be doing to improve equity in our work and stand against all forms of racism. Shortly after, we shared a blog identifying initial steps. A year on we are taking stock of how this work is progressing, reflecting on what the journey has been like so far.

Looking back at the last year

Progress has at times been slower than we had hoped. An open and ongoing dialogue within our teams has been crucial to moving forward and understanding what is and isn’t going well. This is true too of colleagues externally – there are individuals and organisations whose time, expertise and thoughtful contributions have been crucial to the progress we have made so far. Our expertise when it comes to youth mental health and racism is limited. We continue to learn from others and try to bring together and support those working in this area, such as through the youth mental health and racism special interest group funded by Emerging Minds. Here, our aim is to create a platform for those working in this area to share practice, build collaborations and to shine a light on the fantastic work they are doing. Our CORC colleagues also led a roundtable at their 2020 Member Forum on ethnic inequalities in measuring and understanding experiences of mental health challenges and mental health support.

We have reviewed and revised the language we use in our briefings, agreeing internally some preferred terminology. While this reflection on language has been valuable, we have met with a number of complexities. For instance, when authors we are citing use terms that differ from those we have agreed as a unit, we have been faced with the decision of whether to use their preferred terms or our own. Where possible, we use our preferred terms and are clear and transparent about the language we are using and why, and we invite our audiences to contact us with feedback on our use of language.

We are also working on reflexivity statements for qualitative and quantitative papers to increase transparency about the perspective we bring to our work. We have begun to consult with experts in the area on how we interpret and report on findings about ethnicity and mental health. Similarly, we have started to undertake interviews with young people from minoritised ethnic groups to help to unpack what might be driving ethnic inequalities found in quantitative studies, rather than simply describing these inequalities.

In terms of our research and publications, we incorporated spotlights on race and ethnicity into our Emerging evidence: coronavirus and children and young people’s mental health series, which is a collaboration with CORC. The rapid reviews of evidence we carried out for this series found that children and young people of colour have been disproportionality affected by the pandemic and its mental health impacts. We also published a research bite focusing on protective factors for young people of colour. A second research bite on youth mental health and racism, though behind schedule, is now underway in partnership with the Centre for Mental Health. You can access our Emerging evidence reports and the research bites on the Anna Freud Centre website.

Another of our aims was to improve the diversity of the participation groups we engage with, and to incorporate resource allocation for the active contribution of young people, particularly those from underserved groups including young people of colour. The active ingredients project, completed earlier in the year by our colleagues at CORC, is a good example of this. Part of this work involved developing an international peer involvement network across eight countries. This was a positive step but may be hard to replicate going forward, so we need to think about how we do this in a sustainable way. We are currently exploring how we can maintain and build this network. We are also consistently including resources for the active contribution of young people, particularly those from minoritised groups, in funding applications.

We also committed to developing timelines to explore research questions in five areas:

  • Examining the protective characteristics that support mental health for young people from black and minoritised ethnic groups.
  • Unpacking the social inequalities driving difference in prevalence of mental health problems across different ethnic groups.
  • Exploring the experiences of children in Young Offenders Institutions, including a focus on the experience of Black young people in the secure estate.
  • Qualitative analysis to explore language that people of different ethnicities use to describe mental health challenges.
  • Investigating ethnic inequalities in mental health service pathways and treatment outcomes.

Research relating to each of these areas is underway, with several papers currently being drafted.

Finally, together with our colleagues at the Anna Freud Centre, we have recruited three paid internships for individuals from minoritised ethnic backgrounds, and these posts are starting over the summer. We are also working with our colleagues in HR to review where job vacancies are being advertised, including platforms specifically for people from minoritised ethnic groups.

Our goals for the year to come

We recognise that meeting our commitment to equity, diversity and anti-racism is an ongoing process. As well as continuing to work towards the goals and ambitions we set out a year ago, we are keen to set new ones. Our goals for the coming year include the following:

  1. Consult with young people, especially from minoritised ethnic groups, to inform our research strategy and the areas of research we prioritise in future.
  2. Carry out a qualitative study with young people from minoritised ethnic groups to understand how we can make mental health research more inclusive.
  3. Explore within our team how we can openly discuss our own protected characteristics.
  4. Involve our staff in reviewing and refreshing how we support all members of our team to develop in their careers, whether in research or in other roles.
  5. Develop a new set of research questions to explore the experiences of children, young people and families with a range of protected characteristics in relation to mental health and wellbeing.

A continued focus on anti-racism underpins our goals for the coming year. In addition, we want to examine the uniqueness of young people’s identities from an intersectional perspective. We aim to unpack the best ways to support the mental health of young people with multiple marginalised identities, who may experience a combination of structural and social inequalities.

If you have any feedback on this update or our plans for the coming year, we would be pleased to hear from you – contact us at ebpu@annafreud.org.  

Links

Black Lives Matter: CORC's statement of support - one year on

The Anna Freud Centre: Our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion