Notes on: Arday, J. (2022a). No one can see me cry: understanding mental health issues for Black and minority ethnic staff in higher education. Higher Education 83:79 – 12

[Very long. Repetitive. Assertive. Based on CRT tenets rally -- that racism is everywhere and is increasingly sophisticated, covert and institutionalised. A great deal of general stuff, quite a lot of it his own work, before he gets to his actual study. That is a puzzle too -- what is a study based on CRT doing with empirical work, using NVivo, discussing researcher bias and the like? As empirical work it leaves a lot of questions as well. The empirical work is pretty general anyway and tells us more or less what the general stuff has told us -- that BME [sic]  people find it hard to discuss health problems with university counsellors. All university staff are in the same boat in my view! There is a great deal of talk about insidious and sophisticated racism -- one source is Rollock's fable, itself heavily based on Sue's controversial stuff -- but no-one in the sample actually talks about it or provides any examples, say of actual microaggressions. They might be triggered if they talk to the researcher -- so he can't ask them any specific questions and has to rely on really awful general ones. He does the heavy interpretation.

This is the second case where the absence of evidence actually proves the case that racism is everywhere. The other one is a study of racism in cricket where the victims were so afraid of reprisals that they refused to provide any examples to the researcher: Burdsey, D. (2011)  That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore: Racial Microaggressions, Color-Blind Ideology and the Mitigation of Racism in English Men’s First-Class Cricket Sociology of Sport Journal,  28, 261-283. -- I must put the notes on my website]

[Note that he refers to BME communities. The footnote explains that this refers to 'people from ethnic backgrounds other than white British (including black African, African Caribbean, Asian, Latin American, and other minority ethnic communities) with more precise descriptions used where appropriate. There is a recognition, however that the term BME is not universally accepted. Although, this is the term commonly used within the British vernacular. It is important to acknowledge that the term BME, despite its widespread use has severe limitations and usually follows non-specific quantifiers such as 'most' or 'some'… Typically there's been an accepted use of the term BME which has been illustrated in research and government papers. Given the purpose of this paper, this term is applied purely as a descriptive term having been the preferred term for most of the participants throughout this study' The same justification appears elsewhere in his work too eg Arday 2018a, 2021. It entirely misses the point in Sewell, of course,that lumping people together in this category misses important empirical differences between them. I imagine the impact of Sewell generally was potentially devastating for this whole approach -- overgeneralised, relentlessly pessimistic, no discussion of social class]

BME people continue to experience differential outcomes in the mental health system and experience 'the trauma of racism' for professional and academic staff in HE 'against a backdrop drop of cultural and organisational institutional racism' [this is the Abstract]. There are barriers to accessing mental health interventions that recognise 'insidious racism'. The paper also explores the impact of racial discrimination and the paucity of psychological interventions dealing with discriminatory episodes. Universities need to diversify professional healthcare. 40 BME academic and professional staff were studied and their narratives [exampled]. The impact of 'belonging, isolation and marginalisation' were also studied. Conclusions turned on providing more diverse mental health support and more generally how to dismantle racial inequality.

There is an increasing pressure within HE which has led to 'growing concerns for the mental well-being of [all, surely] staff in universities' (81), but some have had their experiences exacerbated by racism and this has been lost in the general focus. Talking and behavioural therapies have been influential, but earlier research [including his --2015, 2020, 2019] suggest that BME academics get different support especially in relation to racism and its trauma. There is a lack of understanding about the nuances of discrimination and racism, discriminatory and stereotypical judgements especially concerning 'psychological symptoms or altered mental state'.

HE now prioritises mental health and wellness [referring to his own research again] and there is a correlation between continuous encounters of racism and the effect on well-being. However, the well-being of the BME 'remains an afterthought'. There is a cumulative effect, 'discriminatory patterns' and BME staff 'often have to navigate the institutionally racist and inequitable terrain of academia… A normative and casual integration of insidious and subtle racism, in the form of racial micro-aggressions… And hyper- surveillance' [citing Rollock 2012] (81). This contrasts with the lofty egalitarian ideals espoused by universities [with a reference to his own work again. Universities are even more complicit in maintaining and sustaining racial inequality [his earlier work suggests 2020].

There are implications for the student population too [guess which work is referenced]. The Academy needs to be more reflective in a diverse multicultural society [ditto] so diversity in staff and students is important to fulfil the primary mission. Diversity helps universities challenge stereotyped preconceptions, encourages critical thinking and facilitates communication and engaging effectively, coinciding with the function of preparing individuals to become good citizens in a complex and pluralistic society. Continuous evaluation, diversity and pastoral interventions are therefore essential to retain BME academic and professional staff [ditto2019]

This paper examines the impact of negotiating racial inequality and discrimination — discriminatory cultures which cultivate victimisation, isolation and marginalisation. He wants to centre the experiences of BME staff more generally because this voice has been omitted in the past: 'unpacking this melanoma is paramount' [sic]. Unequal access to mental health services often compounds racial oppression and increases the sense of victimisation leading to more isolation and marginalisation, and this is a form of oppression, a matter of 'enduring institutional racism sustained through hostile and violent cultures'. Universities must develop better, more diverse pastoral services to deal with 'more modernised and sophisticated forms of racism'. The effects are psychological but also affect career progression retention and contract security. Other evidence suggests that ethnic minorities [generally?]face an increased risk of mental health issues.

The conclusion points to suggestions and recommendations to diversify and modernise mental health services, including developing 'contextual subtlety and understanding' (82) allowing BME staff to make sense of their racialised episodes 'as a remedial and cathartic process'. Organisational structures and cultures within universities should dismantle racism and 'alleviate the mental torque placed on BME staff' .

[More general stuff on the Academy and its institutional norms, how it facilitates racial harassment and psychological abuse, often quoting his own work again Arday and Mirza 2018]. Senior leaders remain 'consciously or unconsciously complicit in maintaining exclusionary cultures [true ] which marginalise and victimise ethnic minorities'. BME staff face continuing questioning of their professional capacities. The Academy is now a 'cauldron for knowledge production and dissemination' and this makes it more demanding and also 'inhabiting biases most notably against minorities and women [2020 ditto]. BME academics already make up a significant percentage on precarious contracts and so they face significant implications 'due to the fluidity of structural racism' [the fluidity of the market I would have thought as well] [it seems so easy for him — universities are riddled with structural racism, and it is those on the periphery who face the most discrimination, so it is BME staff. However, the presence of BME staff on the periphery is also an indication of structural racism].

Other minorities also face 'intersectional discrimination — individuals with disability, women, LGBQT, and we need more research. We still need research on the racialised experiences of black people, however. This paper looks at the issue of mental health.

BME mental health shows significant failing institutional services. People from ethnic minorities are still relatively underresearched [generally?]. The lack of extensive networks  makes it hard to 'glean narratives and experiences within the Academy' since so many are marginalised and isolated [he found a way through social media?] 'For many university staff [not just BME?] the intensive gaze of the Academy and the stigma of mental illness' (83) means a reluctance to disclose and to trust pastoral interventions [other work referenced here]. The 'perniciousness of racism… means that there will inevitably be a colouration between the impact of racial discrimination on mental health and physical health' [repeated in the next sentence] (83). A report on the impact of racism surveying 5000 BME employees shows that 28% of them who experienced workplace racism 'stated that they had to take a period of sick leave'. Another survey said that 'a significant proportion of both men and women said that racial discrimination 'had caused them to leave a job' (83)[ in 2019] [HE though?].

BME staff do not trust medical research and are less willing to participate, 'particularly for BME University staff' (84). Research networks have not always included BME staff. Additional barriers might include language needs for failing to accommodate diverse needs. This 'structural inequality' leads to further marginalisation. We already know that HE excludes ethnic minorities [references include him and Mirza 2018, him 2020] and aspects include 'hyper- surveillance, racial micro-aggressions and a paucity of opportunities to progress professionally '[refs include him 2019 and Picower 2009]. Navigating inequitable terrain can be mentally exhausting and effect professional performance and can produce 'racial battle fatigue', a term whose remit is now been expanded to include people beyond the USA — Smith defines it as conditions from 'constantly facing racially dismissive, demeaning, insensitive and/or hostile racial environments and individuals', leading to erosion of resilience and subsequent strength. People have called for universities to be aware of the implications and provide counsellors [especially someone called Franklin 2019].

Attitudes towards mental illness within BME communities can be restrictive, framed in terms of developing greater resilience, or establishing 'a greater connection with faith (religion) as the only reliable' way to stop mental health decline. There is also a tendency to trivialise mental illness as frailty rather than an illness. There is often a stigma. Overall there are several difficulties in actually disclosing some of the more crippling psychological symptoms [him again 2018 and others], and attempting to deal with the issue on their own leads to further difficulties. Pastoral services are in high demand as a result of the sector's growth leading to a reactive system failing to recognise the importance of providing support. This will inevitably weaken the ability to respond to the needs of service users. The 'ethnic minority voice' is important 'in considering how we disrupt dominant monopolies which often omit discourses concerning the BME mental health experience' [with reference to MIND and others]. We need to glean this narrative to provide a catalyst to reframe and reimagine discussions. [Then a puzzling bit — there may be only small differences in willingness by race or ethnic groups to take part according to published research reports consent rates in quantitative surveys, so there is no need to change attitudes, but instead to engage in a wider debate to 'recognise the contextual nuances of how particular ethnic groups encounter mental illness… a reconceptualisation [that] relies on shifting the paradigms for inclusion, which is dependent on a lexicon that prioritises and encourages black and ethnic minority engagement in disclosing experiences of mental illness', with references to a MIND study. This is a bullshit/thesaurus version of just saying we need to be more inclusive and maybe use terms more familiar to ethnic minorities?]

There needs to be better representation and diversification within student services [refs include him 2019]. Well-being of staff is essential especially if there are few ethnic minorities. Research points towards higher rates of mental health problems for BME communities [in general?] [Again an odd bit saying the dominant discourse has situated BME communities with mental health problems to receive diagnoses of mental illness, involuntary treatment and to enter the mental health system via the criminal justice system, inflicting severe mental health diagnosis through stereotypes and racial discrimination]. This has led to generational distrust and fear of disclosing. We need a new lexicon in recognition of this context which will reassert itself in inequitable spaces

After all this general stuff — six pages — the study:

14 UK-based universities, Russell group and post 92 institutions. 40 BME academic and professional staff between 26 and 58 recruited 'from a range of university faculties and professional services'. They got 'semistructured open-ended questionnaires'. [NB an odd bit repeated in one of his other surveys -- the completed questionnaires were deposited in a ballot box -- why? were they then selected for some reason -- for exampling? Or was this just scientism,because the manuals said they should be?] There were two 'unstructured focus group interviews and 40 60 minute semistructured individual interviews with all participants' (87) they explored 'lived experiences of negotiating mental illness as BME staff within higher education'. They got these people 'through access to extensive BME academic networks such as the Black British Studies Network and academic and professional communities with a focus on supporting ethnic minority staff within higher education' they also used a 'purposeful sampling process which involves recommendations from several ethnic minority colleagues'. 'Geographical considerations and availability were central'. 'Social media platforms are also utilised'. 'Additionally convenience sampling was utilised to diversify the pool of participants and responses to ensure that the sample was representative as possible regarding the broad ethnic minority demographic within the sector to be considered' [with general references] (87). They used critical discourse analysis to see how meanings are represented within particular narratives concerning BME staff mental health. [But and as well ?] 'This research adopts a critical race theory framework to understand both the lived experiences and structural dimensions of institutional racism within the Academy and the psychological impact on mental state. Such conceptual instruments allow for critical insight into the ways in which racism insidiously pervades throughout the sector (Arday 2019)' [so what's it doing using interviews? If it's using CRT, what is there to find out?].

In the 'embryonic phase' each participant was given an anonymous self-administered questionnaire asking for demographic information — gender, age, academic or professional role, ethnicity '(according to the ONS classification)', marital status and duration of time working within HE. They then used excerpts from the two focus group discussions each lasting three hours which had 40 participants — eight Asian/Asian British, 14 Black/Black British, 13 mixed heritage. All 40 were 'informed about potentially sensitive and emotional nature of the research and were told they were able to withdraw, especially if the study triggered them. Mental healthcare professionals were enlisted to help with trauma. 24 females and 16 males used. 'The overwhelming majority of participants were the only black or ethnic minority within their university.

The focus groups were facilitated by him using mental health professionals to assist, all were recorded and transcribed. Flipcharts were used to document patterns of thoughts. A reflexive process 'ensured participants' views were clearly documented. 'Each participant was encouraged to discuss their experiences of racism, the feelings that accompanied this, and self disclose whether this had impacted on their mental well-being and health' (88). There was a supportive and nurturing environment cultivated.

A topic/ discussion guide was provided to ascertain aspects of access to mental health services at university and within the local community [at the focus groups?] (88) — types of service used, issues with, experiences of, perceived barriers, and how healthcare services can be improved. 'Broad topic guide questions included the following: (1) what are your perspectives on mental health? (2) how do ethnic minorities deal with mental health issues? (3) do you think mental health and psychological services are made accessible to BME academic and professional staff within universities and wider society more generally? (4) culturally, how much encounters with mental illness differ for ethnic minority men and women in comparison to white people? (5) how can the current mental health/well-being services be improved for BME individuals within universities in society more generally? And (6) when you feel most vulnerable as a BME member of staff and when does this become exacerbated?' [What terrible questions! How on earth could anybody answer them? They just invite a rant]

They used thematic analysis to identify key themes that were 'concurrent and commonly emerged amongst the participants regarding perceived barriers to accessing contextually appropriate mental health services for ethnic minorities at universities encountering racism in the workplace' [with a reference to some earlier literature. He familiarised himself with the scripts and notes and then developed an iterative coding scheme using NVivo [why bother?]. Themes and sub themes emerged. Transcripts are then coded according to theme. Any new themes were adapted in an iterative process. He established 'positionality and proximity to the research… In an attempt to acknowledge and reduce researcher bias'. He acknowledges that 'some organic bias may be inherent, although all protocols were administered to ensure objectivity… And any potential biases were minimised through the study' [and he claims to be a CRT enthusiast!]. Other researchers and mental health professionals also read the scripts and coded and analysed the data 'to enhance the validity of the emerging themes and claims' [!] (89). Anonymized quotes were used to illustrate pertinent themes. He claims to have developed 'a continual reflective process throughout, a continual evaluation of approaches including the limitations of researcher bias. He noted 'there was a marked similarity in racialised experiences, resulting in some of the interview and focus group questions becoming "leading"'. Luckily 'this did not greatly affect the outcome of responses', but it is 'important to acknowledge this in an attempt to minimise and recognise that researcher bias was always likely due to the personal proximity research topic' (89).

There were two 'broad interrelated themes as barriers' to accessing mental health services, apparently adapted from the work of Memon and Arday 2018. These were personal environmental factors, relationship between service user and healthcare provider 'situated around power and hierarchy'. There are also some themes illuminating some of the perceived problems for ethnic minorities.

First we have to acknowledge the services that are generally available. There are occupational health, counselling, psychological therapies such as CBT and access to mental health support charities, together with links with National Health Service mental health provision. There are similarities across these services and so [a difficulty?] In an attempt to 'glean and centre BME experiences when engaging with healthcare professionals regarding mental health within the University space'.

There were problems if participants disclosed candid accounts involving personal experiences because these could be a potential trigger for phases of trauma, and mental health professionals warned about this and suggested the exercise of caution. However, all staff 'had similar experiences of racialization… Difficulties to varying degrees in gaining sufficient and appropriate access to culturally cognisant and suitable psychological intervention within their institutions' (90), regardless of whether they were professional or academic. The most significant impact was 'residual trauma experience from these racially discriminatory episodes' but there were intersectional factors such as 'age, gender or professional role', but [rather oddly] these 'did not point towards positive "differential" experiences among participants within this particular study' [did they amplify  or get confused with negative ones?]

Let's take the personal environmental factors. Inability to recognise symptoms and the rejection of these symptoms by some healthcare professionals were key factors especially for those who are afraid of being stigmatised by professionals or within their communities. The first example mentions the stigma in their own culture, and the expectation to be strong, a belief that mental health is not to be discussed openly with either family members or faculty, or that seeking support could lead to a crescendo and that this in turn would lead to suppression and further breakdown.

Social networks were seen as important and those that were on the periphery of them experienced more difficulties. Some talked about being ostracised by white colleagues and being marginalised, and being afraid of being labelled as hypersensitive if they complained. Some established networks with other ethnic minority colleagues. Some saw healthcare professionals as liable to trivialise racism or to see it as a sign of mental illness itself. Healthcare professionals were not always knowledgeable about the subtlety or perniciousness of racism and those who encountered it 'on a daily basis'. There is a need for a safe space, although an awareness that these could also 'become an echo chamber' simply reliving experiences rather than helping to deal with the issues. One reference suggests that therapeutic spaces are safer for white people, and that 'safe spaces within the University campuses are often hyper- surveilled by white people with regards to people of colour' (92). Some wanted alternative therapies, those that were more attuned to racism as a catalyst for mental illness.

Some reported a fear of mental illness being exploited by white colleagues in narratives about professional capability or competence [managers especially I would have thought]. This produced a reluctance to use pastoral services, increasing the notion of deficiency. Counselling services were out of date. Informal support structures were important [he noticed that in 2018] because of the residual distrust towards healthcare provision among host communities.

There were gender differences, shown in higher rates of suicide among BME men. A white Eurocentric narrative has been blamed for the rhetoric which has not helped explain the patterns (94) [something to do with toxic masculinity and silencing the voices of black men 'due to societal binaries and often negative portrayals', leading to fears of further stigmatisation [one quote also mentions a fear of showing weakness to colleagues and health professionals and failing to live up to societal expectations of hypermasculinity]

Let's turn to relations between service users and healthcare providers, especially aspects of power and hierarchy. The first factor was language 'particularly where English was the second language'. This was a barrier [!]. [How many people were affected?] The 'overwhelming consensus' was… To employ multilingual healthcare professionals! An example from a female Latin American described the problems. Then there is a repetition of the problem of stigmatisation, and a failure to grasp that racism is now more sophisticated, and so is mental trauma.

Several participants were frustrated by having to constantly explain and justify 'racialised encounters' (96) and asked for more diversified healthcare professionals: they feared that complaining would be used as another form of oppression. 'Typically' there were comments about white fragility and discomfort when discussing racism, and the need to self censor. 'A continual theme' was also being unable to conceptualise or empathise with 'the systemic impact of insidious and visceral racism' [with references to other studies], requiring the need to modernise health services [no real examples here].

Power and hierarchy were considered 'as oppressive instruments maintaining inequality and inequity at the expense of ethnic minorities'. Examples mentioned '"patronising and condescending behaviour from senior leaders when you present them with a problem"', reproduced with the healthcare professionals. Being labelled as clinically unwell could reinforce hierarchies, maybe even lead to being detained under the mental health act. Greater diversification again was required, at least to change the dynamic. Some participants 'described a sense of helplessness and passivity' and being assessed psychologically, again with the need to diversify [supported by his own work]. This was seen as racism, a 'discriminatory canon' requiring diversification, recruiting people with experiences of dealing with racialised trauma. Academic cultures 'were considered to be illicit in sustaining discriminatory environments' (98). General exclusionary mechanisms and 'the centring of whiteness' preserved power through privilege 'often at the expense of BME staff' [presumably, generally, arising from one of the tenets of CRT?].

[On the study, much remains as puzzling. Overall, this must have provided an awful lot of data, even given the constraints on anything that might trigger the punters -- hardly any of it actually appears in this study though, certainly not compared to the repetitive summaries of the literature and commentaries, many of them his. The quotes ( 24 of them) are of unknown origin --from the focus groups or the interviews? Was anything derived from the questionnaires? While I am here, why ask for ONS classifications for ethnicity and then recategorise and use your own? Were any of these quotes the results of 'leading questions'? Some of the themes like gender and language difficulties do not appear in the commentary (or barely) but are not used to modify the general CRT-based accounts, so the one chance to learn from the exercise was lost -- so what was the point of doing it all? Would it have made any difference if he had left it out?].
Although there are 'contextual limitations'[and other marvellous weasels] we should consider exploring workplace harassment, human rights training for selection and review committees and diversification, especially to see if they support 'the psychological rehabilitation of ethnic minorities as a result of encountering systemic and structural racial violence'.

In conclusion, 'the terrain of higher education is undeniably inequitable across several intersections. Racism within the sector continues to persist… Through varying and sophisticated instruments of discrimination' this results in different experiences of mental health services. There is a need for targeted psychological interventions to better support ethnic minorities to deal with racialised experiences and to 'stay ahead of more sophisticated and pernicious forms of racism' [Sewell 2012 is one of those cited here, and later Sivanandan]. Because healthcare professionals are 'not privy to the subtleties of sustained and systemic racism' they provide barriers to intervention and these are 'central to exacerbating forms [sic] anxiety, victimisation, depression and isolation'. Universities must invest resources to diversify clinicians to reflect a multi-diverse university community, remove barriers and develop more productive experiences with more effective outcomes. This should raise awareness of mental health within BME communities and encourage 'health seeking behaviour' (99), prioritising the mental health of BME.

'The relentless, daily encounter with racial discrimination is a nuanced and complex experience that requires contextual psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (Lamb et al. 2012; Sewell 2012) '[blimey — ego adjustment, not politics!]. There must be a more diverse pool of professionals aware of the impact of racism which should not be decentred. Racialised experiences should not be silenced. Intersectional discrimination should be understood and healthcare professionals trained. Awareness should be raised, healthcare staff diversify [for about the 10th time], workplace structures and cultures examine to see how they 'sustain racism'. Experiences that threaten mental health 'are often exacerbated by racially violent and hostile environments within the workplace' so institutional racism must be dismantled and nicer spaces created.

NB I was looking for Rollock 2012 and wondering if it was the same as Rollock 2011, on which I have notes, but the references only mention Rollock 2016, a Guardian article oh no it doesn't — right at the end of the references, out of alphabetical order there is this,and I do have notes on it here.

Rollock 2011/2012 is  not all that authoritative as a source of new and sophisticated racial microaggressions. Rollock 2016 is a short Guardian article announcing the launch of the Equality Challenge Unit's new race equality initiative and the rather disappointing initial reaction of universities to it, although she has hopes it will help matters