Lord Simon Woolley, the first male black head of an Oxbridge college, is using his platform to raise awareness about the mental health struggles faced by black men. In a groundbreaking move, Lord Woolley emphasized the need to address the stigma surrounding mental health and encouraged open conversations within the black community. He highlighted the alarming statistics that show black men are more likely to be sectioned than their white counterparts. To shed further light on this important issue, Lord Woolley will be participating in a public discussion alongside Cambridge sociologist Jason Arday and writer George Mpanga, also known as George The Poet, as part of Black History Month.
The disparity in mental health outcomes between black and white individuals is a pressing concern that demands attention. Government figures revealed a significant discrepancy, with black individuals experiencing 342 detentions under the Mental Health Act per 100,000 people in 2021-22, compared to 72 for white individuals. Lord Woolley expressed his sorrow at these heartbreaking statistics and stressed the urgent need for change. He noted that societal expectations often place additional pressure on black men, who are expected to be strong and resilient, leading to a stifling of emotions and a reluctance to seek help.
Lord Woolley’s own experiences in positions of power have made him acutely aware of the unique challenges faced by black men. As the director of campaign group Operation Black Vote and a former head of the government’s Race Disparity Unit, he has witnessed firsthand the immense pressure to succeed and represent the black community. Lord Woolley hopes that by sharing his own journey and participating in public discussions, he can help break down the barriers surrounding mental health and encourage others to seek support.
The upcoming event at Corpus Christi College will provide a platform for Lord Woolley, Jason Arday, and George Mpanga to share their personal experiences with mental health. By openly discussing their struggles and journeys, they aim to inspire others to break the silence and seek help when needed. Lord Woolley acknowledged that mental health is often considered a private matter, but he believes that by opening up the conversation and creating a supportive environment, progress can be made. He hopes that through events like this, the black community can come together to address the mental health crisis and work towards a future where everyone feels safe and supported.