Black History Month: Interview with Sheila Wright (Part 2)
Question 3: What do you see as the main challenges in this area over the next 3-5 years? Firstly with respect to black patients, and secondly, with respect to black employees.
With regards to patients, I feel the main challenges are engagement with, culturally sensitive service provision and analysis of outcomes. There is stigma attached to mental health, a lack of confidence in being treated fairly and appropriately.
With regards to black employees- As you know there is a shortage nationally across all roles in the NHS and there are disproportionally higher levels of unemployment amongst BAME people so I think the challenge will be how the Trust engages with potential employees. How do we get out there and say “We are a great place to work, come and work for us”, and become an employer of choice.
In terms of employees a number of our BAME staff will get so far in the organisation, feel as if they are not going to progress any further, and leave. So I think it’s the retention issue with our current employees. The challenge for me is the engagement with people in the community, and also the engagement the Trust has with black staff so they feel heard, valued and listened to. I think those are the challenges.
Question 4: What practical steps can be taken to break down barriers between the wider BAME community and local mental health services?
For me, it’s actually getting out there and saying this is who we are, this is what we can do, what can we do for you, what do you need? And, if engage with different communities in different arenas, people and listen, you will be hear what they want and need. We are not always good at listening; it can become painful when they are telling you the hard truths. People tend to relate what they need and what they want based on their experience, or that of a friend or family members experience of accessing, or attempting to access, or being within our mental health services. It’s the negative ones we tend to hear so I think it’s about getting out there, and listening properly and responding and if we can’t do something – be honest. I think people are getting very used to the word “no”, but we have to say “No, because…”, or “Yes, we can do this but we can only do it so far”. I believe in managing expectations.
Question 5: You have a very high profile and challenging role – how to do you manage the demands of this role in such a way that it doesn’t damage your mental health?
I have a number of roles in addition to the one with the Trust. First and foremost it’s having support in work which is just as important as outside of work. So, I’ve been fortunate in that within a work context, and with my role in the Trust, I’ve always felt supported and valued and I’m not afraid to say “no, I’m not going to do that” and that helps me.
At home I’ve got a very supportive husband, I’ve got two grown up children, one of whom is still at home. Recently there have been a number of adverts on the TV about people talking which is an excellent way of managing the stresses of life. I know that if I’m feeling fed up my, my husband will sit and listen while I talk. Because he is from a different professional background he sees things through a different lens and is often able to give me a different perspective on a situation. He is also very good at just listening.
I love music so I listen to lots of different music, soul, jazz, house music. I love classical music. I love to meet friends, I’ve got a close group of friends and we socialise a lot. I like eating out, holidays, reading and I love knitting and embroidery. So I’m always busy doing something. I can’t just sit there and watch TV; I will be knitting at the same time. I know when I’m getting to the point - I now know to listen to my body, physically and mentally, and when I’m getting to that point I say “that’s it, enough is enough”.
Part I of the interview is available here.
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