How do we talk about race…and mental health?

Butcher, John; Awan, Rehana and Gray, Darren (2021). How do we talk about race…and mental health? Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 23(3) pp. 147–162.



This paper reports research undertaken with Access students at the UK Open University which sought to address the Black awarding gap through an intersectional approach. Noting Black students were less likely than White students to declare a mental health disability (for which institutional support would be triggered), the authors explored Black students' reasons for non-disclosure using an ethically sensitive methodology. A self-selecting sample of Black students were interviewed by Black tutors, resulting in deep insights into the lived experiences of Black students. Due to the challenging personal stories elicited, these were presented as five composite personas. Institutional recommendations around the need for enhanced cultural competence amongst staff, and more inclusive language in policy implementation may also address issues across the sector.

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