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January 2021

Research by Think Ahead social worker finds that inpatients’ religious and cultural needs often go unmet

A member of our first intake, Kuldip Kaur Kang, has written about her research into inpatients’ religious and cultural needs for Community Care, a leading social work website.

As part of her master’s degree on the Think Ahead programme, Kuldip explored whether people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds had their religious and cultural needs met when they were detained under the Mental Health Act or receiving informal treatment on a mental health ward.

Religious and cultural needs can be vital for successful recovery from mental health problems and the research, conducted via semi-structured interviews, found that inpatient staff recognised their importance. Yet, they lacked the resources, confidence, and knowledge to translate this into practice. Strikingly, it also found that in some instances staff mistook the expression of religious or cultural beliefs as delusions caused by mental illness.

Kuldip explains: “As a mental health social worker from a BAME background, the question of awareness [of people’s religious and cultural needs] often haunts me, particularly when I visit inpatient wards, environments traditionally dominated by the medical model… my suspicion was that services are not always inclusive of religious and cultural needs, and this sat uneasily with me.”

Kuldip’s research makes a series of recommendations for inpatient staff – including training and a directory of religious and cultural needs – but also for mental health social workers.

She writes: “There is opportunity for social workers, whether employed by the local authority or NHS, to work with our colleagues on wards to ensure the social model is part of supporting inpatients in meeting their religious and cultural needs. This could be through something as simple as a discussion of religious and cultural needs being built into a ward round […].

“This way we can reinforce our identity as mental health social workers in an arena of mental health dominated by the medical model, by championing religious and cultural needs using the social model.”

Read the full article on Community Care

The research, which Kuldip worked on together with Dr Nicola Moran from the University of York, Think Ahead’s academic partner for the 2016 Cohort, was also published in the peer-reviewed Mental Health Review Journal (behind a paywall).