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Case study: Saluting Our Sisters at Mary Seacole House

Saluting Our Sisters at Mary Seacole House

This year's theme for Black History Month is ‘Saluting our Sisters’ which highlights the crucial role that black women have played in shaping history, inspiring change, and building communities. 

For the last 2 years we have been working with Mary Seacole House (MSH) as part of the NIHR Research Ready Communities programme. MSH is a resource service set up to offer support and advice in emotional and practical matters, primarily for black, asian, minority ethnic and refugee communities. Together, we have been working with a group of refugees from diverse backgrounds to understand how the NIHR can make research more accessible. 

We have spoken to Judith Cummings about her families' involvement in the set up of Mary Seacole House. Judy explained how Mary Seacole House was launched in 1991, after several years of lobbying via the Liverpool Black Sisters along with Professor Protasia Torkington and Yvonne Asije Rooney to name a few. What propelled them into action was an incident involving a vulnerable young black man, Wayne, Judy’s brother, who experienced a traumatic incident and the inappropriate treatment he experienced by agencies who were meant to support him and his family.

The group at that time, along with Wayne’s parents, were determined to secure funding for a large property (via Liverpool Housing Trust) within the heart of the Liverpool 8 Community, which offered a home from home environment, where cultural awareness and identity were given priority as part of their service provision. Funding via Liverpool City Council and the expertise of Nigel Mellor resulted in what would become the first dedicated mental health drop-in centre for the black, asian, minority ethnic and refugee communities within Merseyside.

The Mary Seacole House back in 1991 had the vision and tenacity to challenge institutional racism within society, questioned the high admission rates of young Black men within psychiatric services, secure settings and the use of certain medication and treatment models that caused distress to patients detained under the Mental Health Act. Collaborating directly with solicitors, Transcultural Psychiatrist, Pharmacist, CPN’s, Social Workers, The Police and Crown Prosecution Services (CPS). Attending ward rounds, supporting the service users at Multi Disciplinary Team meetings (MDT) was seen as a completely new approach by a community-based agency as the Mary Seacole House. The founding principles of MSH were based on the empowerment of it's service users, access to services be it housing agencies, immigration advisors, education establishments, employment opportunities, legal advice and raising the profile of black mental health in general. The Mary Seacole House is now located within the Kuumba Imani Millennium Centre on Princes Rd in Liverpool 8.

“It's as though the role of the Outreach Development Officer with MSH prepared me for the position of the Advocate Manager, representing clients and service users of the MSH. I look back now and remember how passionate I felt about supporting our service users when they found themselves in very difficult, and challenging situations within the psychiatric and social care system.”

Last week, Mary Seacole House and the community engagement team at the Clinical Research Network, North West Coast were delighted to accept an invite from NHS England to attend a national meeting in London to share best practice about providing better access to research for communities like MSH. 

Take a look back at an article we wrote about Celine, one of our Research Community Champions at MSH.