There’s no doubt that 2020 was a challenging year, but it was particularly challenging for the Black community.
A recent Government review* reports that over-exposure to Covid-19 has led to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities being disproportionately affected by the pandemic. This has a knock-on effect, impacting financial, job and economic stability and of course, mental health.
On top of a global pandemic, the world also witnessed the shocking events surrounding George Floyd and Breanna Taylor, highlighting the ever present racial trauma that many BAME groups experience as part of living in systemically racist societies.
Both events have highlighted that for BAME communities, the need for quicker access to mental healthcare has never been more important.
However, the UK has a supply and demand issue in mental health that needs to be addressed. Last year, 1.17 million people entered treatment for talk therapy*. Unsurprisingly, demand for such services has spiked in the last twelve months*. The pandemic has caused a parallel outbreak of anxiety and depression*, which the Royal College of Psychiatrists* has described as a ‘tsunami of mental illness.’ *
As a result, patient referrals to the UK’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme are expected to triple, according to analysis by IESO*. However, more than one in ten mental health posts are vacant in the UK* and service capacities are not expected to increase anytime soon.
Unquestionably, digital health needs to play a role in alleviating the pressure on our healthcare system, providing mental health support to those who need it urgently and driving equality of service access in mental healthcare.
That’s why Limbic and Black Minds Matter U.K. has launched a new partnership.
Black Minds Matter U.K provides free therapy sessions to Black individuals and families across the UK. Founded in June 2020 during the height of the pandemic and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter protests, the charity saw a surge in demand for their services and had to subsequently close their waitlist.
Limbic’s Self-Care platform is being rolled out to Black Minds Matter U.K’s community of 2600 people. Through a mobile app, Limbic Self-Care enables patients to log their thoughts and feelings and provides CBT exercises via an AI chatbot, helping patients self-manage while they wait for treatment.
Crucially, this means that patients waiting for mental health treatment – which is on average six weeks – will have access to instant support. This has a knock-on effect; keeping patients engaged while they wait has been known to reduce the risk of drop offs, Did-Not-Attends (DNAs) and deterioration of symptoms.*
The wider Limbic software also shares key patient data with clinicians, who are then able to make quicker and more accurate assessments once patients start treatment. Ultimately, this increases efficiencies in mental healthcare and ensures more people can get access to treatment long-term.
There is no doubt that more needs to be done to drive true equality of service. The stigma surrounding mental health issues amongst Black communities, lack of research into Black mental health and lack of representation within clinical services are just some of the issues we also need to address.
Despite this though, we’re optimistic. We believe technology can bridge these gaps and ultimately, give the Black community the best support possible. We all need to play a part in remedying social justice collectively – so let’s get to work.
 An Avoidable Crisis, Labor 2020: https://www.lawrencereview.co.uk/
 Jaye, Lola, BBC Future, 9 July 2020: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200804-black-lives-matter-protests-race-mental-health-therapy
 NHS Digital. Psychological Therapies, Annual report on the use of IAPT services 2019-20. United Kingdom: NHS Digital. 2020. Available from: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/psychological-therapies-annual-reports-on-the-use-of-iapt-services/annual-report-2019-20. [Accessed 03 November 2020].
 H. Yao et al. Patients with mental health disorders in the COVID-19 epidemic. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2020, 7 (43).
 Royal College of Psychiatrists. Psychiatrists see alarming rise in patients needing urgent and emergency care and forecast a ‘tsunami’ of mental illness, 2020. [Online] Available from: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/news-and-features/latest-news/detail/2020/05/15/psychiatrists-see-alarming-rise-in-patients-needing-urgent-and-emergency-care. [Accessed 03 November 2020].
 Therapists and teachers warn of looming mental health crisis, Denis Campbell and Michael Savage, The Guardian, 19 July 2020,
 NHS Digital. Psychological Therapies, Annual report on the use of IAPT services 2019-20. United Kingdom: NHS Digital. 2020. Available from: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/psychological-therapies-annual-reports-on-the-use-of-iapt-services/annual-report-2019-20
 Average waiting time for patients in 2019-20 = 45 days. NHS Digital: Waiting times for referrals entering treatment in the year 2019-20: https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiMGUwOGFiYWItODFhYS00MmMzLWFkMjQtOTg4NzU4MDk4ZTI3IiwidCI6IjUwZjYwNzFmLWJiZmUtNDAxYS04ODAzLTY3Mzc0OGU2MjllMiIsImMiOjh9
 G. Thornicroft. Improving access to psychological therapies in England. The Lancet, 2017, 391 (10121)
Mental Health Foundation: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Communities: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/b/black-asian-and-minority-ethnic-bame-communities