My name is Katy Ellis, and I am a 22-year-old mixed-race British woman. My dad is Black British, with his parents being from Barbados, and my mom is White British. Alongside my work with Richmond Fellowship, I also work for a community-based service called Peckham Befrienders, which is based in the heart of South London.


Peckham Befrienders is part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. It is a service for Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) people living with a mental health diagnosis. It’s a service, that aims to assist people to integrate within the community by having volunteers function as “Befrienders” This is one of the ways that help people maintain their mental health and emotional well-being, and support recovery is being increasingly recognised. Peckham Befrienders was created 22 years ago by a leading Black Female Doctor of Psychiatry.


South London and Maudsley (SLaM) Mental Health Foundation Trust serves the London boroughs of Croydon, Lambeth, Lewisham, and Southwark. Peckham Befrienders is a service that has been created due to the high percentages of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups within South London boroughs and the high percentage of individuals from those ethnic groups who access mental health services. Croydon borough holds the 2nd largest population in London, and 50% of the borough’s population is from black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups. In Lewisham, there were significantly higher rates of serious mental illness (1.3%) compared to England (0.9%) (2017–2018). In 2020, Black people in Lambeth were more likely to experience multiple long-term conditions than other ethnicities but were diagnosed on average 4 years later. A report by Southwark Council found that severe mental illness disproportionately affects Black ethnic groups, with Black people four times more likely to receive a diagnosis of psychosis.


There have been many barriers found for individuals with mental health challenges when accessing support; for those from Black and other ethnic communities, research has found they may face those barriers and more when accessing support. Such as language barriers, not recognising their mental illness due to a lack of education about mental health in the community, stigma around mental health, a lack of trust in the system, racism, and financial barriers. Our service recognises the variations in access, experience, and outcomes for Black and ethnic minority service users within and as a consequence of wider systems of oppression. We also recognise the barriers within the community, and we do our best to support our service users by increasing their social networks, providing a safe space, and creating a sense of community.


Our service is run by a small team, who have BAME heritage, and our team is also made up of volunteers (befrienders) who come from various ethnic groups. The fundamental principle behind the PB project is that people with mental health problems, like others, need friends with whom they can have an informal relationship based on mutual interest, equality, and respect, whilst within a framework of professional befriending. Our service is based on empirical evidence that shows that increased socialisation aids and maintains emotional well-being and aids recovery.


We have a wide range of service users who attend both sessions every week and have attended for years. Most of our service users are those from Black Caribbean and Black African backgrounds. I believe our service is so important to the service users, as we don’t put a time limit on our access, which is why we have service users who have been in attendance for 10 years or more. We also acknowledge the differences within BAME service users and celebrate them. We provide culturally appropriate meals, listen to music chosen by service users (usually reggae), speak on topics around the world and embrace conversations on different cultures, offer services like reflexology, and also provide a space simply for those who may not want to talk but just want to be around people who they can relate to in aspects other than just their mental health.

Contributed by Katy Ellis, Richmond Fellowship Physical Health Liaison Officer

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© Copyright – Richmond Fellowship Design by uMarketeers