Psychologist logo
Education, Race, ethnicity and culture

BAME representation and psychology

Keisha York on the BAME in Psychiatry and Psychology group.

02 December 2019

It is long acknowledged that there is a lack of psychiatrists and psychologists of ethnic backgrounds within mental health professions. For example, research by the Health & Social Care Information Centre in 2013 showed that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals make up only 9.6 per cent of qualified clinical psychologists in England and Wales, in contrast to 13 per cent of the population (Office of National Statistics, 2018).

BAME applicants are less likely to meet the selection criteria for doctorate programmes which is a prerequisite for becoming a chartered psychologist in the UK (Scior et al., 2007). This was demonstrated by the Leeds Clearing House for Postgraduate Courses in Clinical Psychology, which found that in 2016, only 4 per cent of the 6 per cent Asian/Asian British groups, and 2 per cent of the 4 per cent Black/Black British groups who applied to clinical doctorate programmes were accepted, compared to 91 per cent of the 84 per cent of white groups. However, these statistics only represent half the picture. Essentially, researchers do not have an indication of the proportion of BAME individuals who are qualified or trainee psychologists in the different sub-disciplines i.e. educational, health, forensic, occupational, and sport psychology; nor a complete idea of the number of BAME psychiatrists.

An ethnically diverse and representative workforce within psychiatry and psychology professions is imperative for addressing the well-documented unequal clinical outcomes and overall negative experiences that BAME mental health service users face. BAME professionals can provide a more culturally reflective and sensitive service (Haigh et al., 2014). As such, organisational and representative bodies for psychiatrists and psychologists should aim to prioritise and advance BAME groups within those professions. They should also address some of the main issues recognised in the literature which might prevent BAME students from continuing professional development in the field. These issues include, but are not limited to: the low visibility of BAME professionals in the field; lack of exposure to cross-cultural and African/Asian centred psychology; experiences of racism, micro-aggressions and biases in both the profession and at academic level (Ragaven, 2018).

As such, 'BAME in Psychiatry & Psychology' (BIPP) was developed. It's an initiative holding quarterly panel discussions, talks, workshops, and/or presentations at King's College London, delivered by psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health practitioners, addressing the key issues identified above. Specifically, its activities provide insight, guidance, and knowledge on accessing careers in psychiatry and psychology for individuals of BAME background; the activities increase exposure to, learning, and discussion of cross-cultural or BAME psychological theory, practice and research; and they explore various approaches to addressing racial disparities in mental health care.

The strength and uniqueness of the BIPP lies in the fact that those delivering the activities are BAME psychiatry and psychology professionals who have already navigated successfully in their careers. They have attained preeminent positions and are thus equipped to provide thorough insight. The inaugural event was held at King's College London last September, and the event 'BIPP – Addressing Men's Mental Health' on 22 January aims to provide communities with a professional understanding of BAME men's experiences of mental health and help-seeking behaviours, as well as statutory support practices available.

Will the BIPP be an effective initiative for addressing underrepresentation and racial inequalities within the field?
Further information on BAME in Psychiatry & Psychology can be found on our LinkedIn page and on our Twitter account (@BIPPNetwork).

Keisha York
Founding Director of BAME in Psychiatry & Psychology


Haigh, M., Kapur, N. & Cooper, J. (2014). Suicidal behavior among ethnic minorities in England. In D.D. van Bergen, A.H. Montesinos & M. Schouler-Ocak (Eds.) Suicidal behavior of immigrants and ethnic minorities in Europe (pp. 45-60). Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

Health and Social Care Information Centre. (2013). NHS workforce, summary of staff in the NHS: Results from September 2012 census

Office of National Statistics. (2018). Ethnicity and national identity in England and Wales 2018

Ragavan, R.N. (2018). Experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic clinical psychology doctorate applicants within the UK

Scior, K., Gray, J., Halsey, R. & Roth, A. (2007). Selection for clinical psychology training: Is there evidence of any bias towards applicants from ethnic minorities. Clinical Psychology Forum, 175, 7-11.