Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

Ugo - Interview 02

Age at interview: 38
Age at diagnosis: 31

Brief outline: This Black-British woman became depressed in 1981 after 6 miscarriages, and losing her husband and home. She's also diagnosed with personality disorder (which she disagrees with) and lost custody of her child because of her mental health problems.

Background: Unemployed, former nurse, single with 1 child. Ethnic background/nationality: Black-British (UK born).

Audio & video

Ugo became unwell in 1981 following six miscarriages and losing her husband and home. She returned to live with her abusive family and was diagnosed with depression. 18 months later, Ugo tried to commit suicide and was sectioned. After leaving hospital, she became unwell again, this time while pregnant. Her son was taken into care and now lives with Ugo's sister. 

In 2001, she was diagnosed with personality disorder, which she and her former social worker disagree with. Ugo is unsure what 'personality disorder' means and has been given no information. Having mental health problems makes Ugo feel “isolated” and like “no one understands you”. Ugo lacks motivation, finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, have a wash or go to the shops on her own. She cuts and burns herself, and takes overdoses. Ugo knows she is becoming unwell when she can't sleep or “sit still” and feels suicidal. 

Ugo manages her mental health problems by trying to “find something to do every day”, “talking” and “going out”. Spirituality also helps at a “time of crisis”. She gets support from a support worker, a day centre and a psychiatrist. She has tried counselling, therapeutic services, and psychotherapy. Therapeutic services helped her “to manage and to understand” her diagnosis, and to recognise when she is becoming unwell. Psychotherapy did not work for Ugo because she “couldn't talk at the time” about her problems. Ugo is prescribed Venofaxine, Diazepam, and Chlorpromazine which give her a dry mouth and the shakes, but she takes them because she does not “want to go back to being unwell”. Ugo is unable to work. 

Ugo recommends that health professionals should “listen to the patients”. She suggests that there should be more community services for women from Black and Minority Ethnic Communities where they can “talk together and get ideas off each other”. In her view, professionals' ethnic background does not make any difference, although they should have an understanding of people's cultures.


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