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

Leicestershire Live logo Leicestershire Live 14/05/2022 Sali Shobowale

Studies have continuously shown BAME communities as more likely to suffer from both physical and mental health issues. And one woman from Leicester is now making it her mission to pioneer change for ethnic minorities in the city after suffering the sudden loss of a friend.

Joy Chinewe Aguguo, who is of Nigerian origin, moved to the UK eight years ago from Italy. She told LeicestershireLive that her passion for mental health began in Africa when the 45 year old wanted to study medicine - but was unable to do the competitive nature of the course.

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

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“Late last year, one of my friends who is also of African origin died at work. He worked tirelessly in a mental health sector which is already a very demanding career.

"Unfortunately one of his patients kicked him in his chest, killing him instantly. From what I was told, the impact of the kick made my friend slump over immediately and just like that, he was gone.

Joy in Health delivers health and wellbeing talks to communities in BAME communities in Leicester © Joy Chinwe Aguguo Joy in Health delivers health and wellbeing talks to communities in BAME communities in Leicester

"Reflecting on this incident, I wondered if my friend having high blood pressure had anything to do with his instantaneous death. But it wasn't just that, he was probably overworked.

"BAME communities work very hard - specifically 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 back home in Africa. That type of stress is what a majority of Africans in the UK go through.

"We go about our daily lives, working endlessly but we don’t really think about our internal health and what all this work is going to our bodies. That's what made me want to start a movement."

It was during the Covid pandemic Joy in Health was born - a community interest company that visits different associations connected to BAME communities in Leicester, creating 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 told LeicestershireLive: “As part of the campaign, I go to many associations because BAME communities in Leicester tend to have loads of societies that meet regularly. Usually I reach out to leaders or the chairman of each association who then invite me to deliver speeches and presentations to their members.

“Thee presentations I do create awareness of mental health, especially during Covid where people have been struggling. Mental health is all about speaking out and so my speeches encourage this.

“I always do my visits with a qualified psychiatrist, because I’m only a health advocate, but I want people to have tailored advice from an actual mental health professional. These professionals are able to help societies recognise signs and symptoms of things such as depression and then point them in the direction to get help.”

The 45 year old said: “From my experience, BAME communities can be unintentionally ignorant or have a nonchalant attitude towards our health. We don’t really take care of our health the way we are supposed to - if you are healthy, you have everything you need to be wealthy.”

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

She said: “We have talked about diabetes and high blood pressure, common issues amongst BAME communities. I’ve had medical doctors on my channel, and we opt to speak in ways and languages that African communities can understand and will continue to do so to get the message out there.”

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