Leicester woman warns BAME communities to take their health more seriously after personal tragedy

Studies have consistently shown that BAME communities are more likely to suffer from physical and mental health issues. And a Leicester woman is now on a mission to pioneer change for the city’s ethnic minorities after suffering the sudden loss of a friend.

Nigerian-born Joy Chinewe Aguguo moved to the UK from Italy eight years ago. She told LeicestershireLive her passion for mental health began in Africa when the 45-year-old wanted to study medicine – but couldn’t keep up with the competitive nature of the course.

She worked as a medical assistant in Italy before migrating to England, but a tragic event ignited a spark in Joy. She felt she wanted to do more in the health sector.

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“At the end of last year, a friend of mine who is also of African descent died on the job. He has worked tirelessly in a mental health sector which is already a very demanding career.

“Unfortunately, one of his patients kicked him in the chest, killing him instantly. From what I’m told, the impact of the kick caused my friend to collapse immediately and just like that, he was gone.

Joy in Health offers health and wellbeing talks to communities in BAME communities in Leicester

“Reflecting on this incident, I wondered if my friend with hypertension had something to do with his instant death. But it wasn’t just that, he was probably overworked.

BAME communities work very hard – especially the black community who are very dependent on each other and there is a lot of pressure for us to work hard for our families in Africa. This type of stress is what the majority of Africans in the UK experience.

“We go about our daily lives, working nonstop but we don’t really think about our internal health and what all that work is going to our bodies for. That’s what made me want to start a movement.”

It was during the Covid pandemic that Joy in Health was born – a community interest business that visits different associations linked to BAME communities in Leicester, raising awareness and advocating for mental health. In 2021, Joy in Health received a grant from the National Lottery Fund to launch a BAME mental health awareness campaign.

joy said LeicestershireLive: “As part of the campaign, I go to many associations because BAME communities in Leicester tend to have many societies that meet regularly. Usually I contact the leaders or the president of each association who invite me then to give speeches and presentations to their members.

“The presentations I give raise awareness about mental health, especially during covid where people fought. Mental health is about speaking out and so my speeches encourage that.

“I always do my visits with a trained psychiatrist, as I’m just a health advocate, but I want people to have personalized advice from a real mental health professional. These professionals are able to help societies recognize the signs and symptoms of things like depression and then point them in the direction of getting help.

The 45-year-old said: “In my experience, BAME communities can be unwittingly ignorant or have a nonchalant attitude towards our health. We don’t really take care of our health like we’re supposed to – if you’re healthy, you’ve got everything you need to be rich.

Joy also has a YouTube channel and a podcast, where she features doctors and other medical professionals, to educate viewers on how to take care of all aspects of their health.

She said: “We talked about diabetes and high blood pressure, common issues in BAME communities. I have had doctors on my channel, and we choose to speak in a way and in languages ​​that African communities can and will continue to understand to get the message out.

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