Accessing Mental Health Services: a Systematic Review and Meta-ethnography of the Experiences of South Asian Service Users in the UK

Riddhi Prajapati, Helen Liebling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
336 Downloads (Pure)


Abstract: Background: Despite calls to address ethnic inequalities to accessing mental health services in the UK, governmental initiatives have had limited impact. Studies indicate that South Asian communities underutilise mental health services. Previous reviews have identified cultural and institutional factors that may influence service use, but these are mostly narrative and limited in their scope. Method: A systematic literature search resulted in fifteen studies exploring the experiences of seeking help and barriers to accessing and using services from the perspective of British South Asian service users. Findings: Qualitative data was synthesised through meta-ethnography, and three themes emerged: Distanced from Services, Dilemma of Trust and Threat to Cultural Identity. South Asian service users were positioned at a distance from being able to access services and stuck in a dilemma of mistrusting White and Asian professionals. They constructed their cultural identity through a set of important values which were neglected by mental health services. Service users, therefore, appeared to engage in an ongoing evaluation of the potential benefits of accessing services against the risks of threat to their personal and cultural identities. The findings are discussed in relation to Eurocentric models of care and community engagement approaches. Conclusion: The review argues that institutional racism and cultural dissonance marginalise South Asian service users from access to quality and effective mental healthcare. It is recommended that services acknowledge the impact of alienation and powerlessness and advance their practices to establish trust and cultural safety for South Asian service users in the UK.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-619
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of racial and ethnic health disparities
Issue number2
Early online date8 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

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  • Healthcare utilisation
  • Help-seeking
  • Mental health services
  • Meta-ethnography
  • Qualitative research
  • South Asian

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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