At our 50th anniversary in 2019, we recognised the need to do more to achieve this and to ensure greater ethnic diversity in our research and patient and public engagement. The University’s recent statement to combat all forms of racism and discrimination outlines how the tragic killing of George Floyd has exposed the effects of underlying societal and institutional inequalities. In addition, the many deaths related to COVID-19 and its impact on black and minority ethnic (BME) communities exposes and escalates these inequalities.
This is not a comfortable area of policy and practice. The invisibility of racism and the silence in which some suffer, and survive or stay well and excel in spite of barriers and glass ceilings, is significant. There are many levels at which inequalities operate, and intersectional influences are important and show interactions with gender, sexuality, as well as socioeconomic status and multiple and cumulative disadvantages.
We have taken a number of steps to tackle racism and discrimination, and thus to foster a better scholarly environment in which students and staff of any heritage and background will flourish. A consultation process is underway with members of the department. However, we must develop our collective knowledge, skills, and capabilities through which we ourselves change the culture, attitudes and behaviours. To do this well, we are including a standing item on ethnic diversity in our regular Senior Management Team meeting to propose and review our plans; we will create a senior role to lead in this area, however, this is just a start. We are using the current focus as a stimulus to reflect on progress so far, so we welcome your views. We will increase our collective efforts and make real change together, and in partnership with other University Departments and our NHS partners.
The processes and procedures through which staff and students can seek advice and support if they experience racism or discrimination are listed below, as well as some useful links to information and advice:
- The department’s online induction pack includes information and contacts relating to our Equality Policy, University Bullying and Harassment Policy, Academic Integrity in Research and Codes of Practice. All staff are asked to complete the mandatory courses for new starters, which include an Equality & Diversity Briefing, Harassment and Bullying Training (Challenging Behaviour) and Implicit Bias. The Equality and Diversity Unit also includes information and advice regarding issues of harassment, race equality and diversity, as well as a new online course for Tackling Race Bias at Work. If you are experiencing difficulties, or wish to find out more, please get in touch with your line manager, the department’s HR Manager (or Director of Graduate Studies for students) or Psychiatry Harassment Advisers.
- The Race Equality Working Group, led by Dr Erdem Pulcu, is developing programmes of work aligned with investigations of racial, ethnic and social inequalities more widely, and promoting these areas of scholarship and pedagogy. The group welcomes enquiry and ideas, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Clinical academic leadership in the areas of multi-morbidity, ethnicity and diversity as applied to mental health is important. Professor Kam Bhui has written extensively on racism and mental health, including briefing papers linked to his current research.
- The NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre is committed to designing, delivering and evaluating projects to widen participation, involvement and engagement in research. It will focus on reaching people with intersectional vulnerabilities, such as religious minorities, BAME communities, socio-economic groups, LBTQ+, and include different age groups. A recent talk on PPI research highlights this.
- The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a statement on racism and mental health, and has just appointed two Race Equality Leads to develop an action plan that tackles racism and discrimination in professional training and in health systems. There are calls for decolonising the curriculum in universities. We are well placed to do this for psychiatry teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. We are integrating competencies relating to cultural and social drivers of health inequalities into our curricula.