Liverpool’s Mary Seacole House provides mental health support for Black and culturally diverse communities

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Established in 1991, Mary Seacole House in Liverpool has been an essential resource for many members of the city’s black and culturally diverse communities.

The mental health charity and resource service, which is based in Toxteth in Liverpool, was named after Mary Jane Grant Seacole, a nurse who is recognised around the world for her efforts during the Crimean war.

Born in Jamaica in 1805, Mary’s passion for medicine and healing took her to England in 1821, where her request to be an army nurse to wounded soldiers in Crimea (now part of the Ukraine) was denied.

Unperturbed, Mary carried on anyway and cared for thousands of British soldiers during the war. Her expertise, passion and warmth earned her the name ‘Auntie Seacole’ and her contributions to medicine during that time has firmly confirmed her place in history.

For Granby Community Mental Health Group, naming Mary Seacole House after this brave, talented and exceptional black woman was an obvious choice.

The charity provides emotional and practical support to over 400 members from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities per year, as well as refugees, and is primarily funded by Liverpool City Council. This support includes the day service, family service and advocacy services. The charity also provides a range of opportunities for its members with regards to social inclusion, health & wellbeing and access to different training sessions.

In an aim to provide consistent, joined up care for the communities they work with, the charity has close links with GP practices, mental health teams, local mental health trusts, local housing providers and many more public sector organisations. This means their dedicated team can provide a holistic approach to support and work with the individual to solve problems and work through issues.

Reihana Bashir, Operations Manager at Mary Seacole House, said:

“One of the important aspects of our service delivery is to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the many culturally diverse communities in the city. Therefore, it is paramount that we have regular and open dialogues with people and take on board what they need in order to adapt and develop our services accordingly.

“In order to achieve this, we have in place a process that will give people the opportunity to do this. This has been never been as important, as we have witnessed first-hand how the COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on people’s mental health and overall wellbeing.”

Having a dedicated mental health resource for black and culturally diverse people is incredibly important, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey from the mental health charity, Mind found that existing inequalities in things like housing, employment and finance have had an even greater impact on BAME communities than white people during the pandemic.

The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health has also found that there are major differences in the way that Black African and Caribbean people come into contact with mental health services and in the benefit they derive from them, compared with the rest of the population.

These existing inequalities, alongside differences in culture, mean that black people are more likely to experience issues with their mental health, but are less likely to seek help and support for it. Charities like Mary Seacole House, through their close-working with the community and the health and care system, helps close the gap and ensure that BAME people are able to access practical, helpful support that will enrich their lives.

To found out more about Mary Seacole House, please visit: www.maryseacolehouse.com. Mary Seacole will also be featured in an upcoming episode of the ITV series Alison Hammond: Back to School.

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