BMH UK Gospel Explosion leads to calls for political action

BMH UK Gospel Explosion leads to calls for political action

Black mental health UK’s Gospel Explosion proved to be one of the major final events in this sectors calendar for 2007.

Organised to keep the focus on the hundreds of thousands of patients locked up in mental health wards over the Christmas season, the evening brought together leading clinicians, church leaders, politicians and community activist in a celebration that also marked the importance of working together for change.

‘We need to have a Stephen Lawrence moment in this area because right now mental health is in the twilight zone in the Black community. I have visited mental health hospitals across London and I was astounded to see the huge over representation of black people in the most secure wards. It is horrendous to see rows and rows of black people locked up in these places where we know they get treated badly because the services are institutionally racist ‘, Lee Jasper, chair of the African Caribbean Mental Health Commission told the London audience.

The introduction of 2007 Mental Health Act in July marked the biggest change in mental health law in almost 25 years. BMH UK used the event to update guests on the developments since the new law has been passed, touching on the Deaths In Custody report that has revealed a three fold increase in the deaths of patients detained under mental health settings in the last 12 months. Also informing the audience on the latest Count Me In Census report that shows and increase in the numbers of black patients being detained in hospital despite a national decline in hospital admission rates.

Speakers highlighted the importance of agreeing on a strategy to address the widespread discrimination which has led to patients from African Caribbean communities being more likely to be forcibly restrained, placed in seclusion, misdiagnosed, and over medicated than any other ethnic group.

‘This is a political issue and the developments we have seen of with the introduction of the new Mental Health Act and the findings of the latest census make it clear that things will only change through political pressure’, academic and consultant psychiatrist professor Suman Fernando said.

Professor Fernando publicly refused an OBE for his work in mental health, this year, in protest over the racist provisions within the 2007 Mental Health Act. He warned the audience: ”the system has great problems of racism, so don’t just leave your friend of family to the system expecting them to do the best for them because they won’t’.

‘The labels assigned to us by this system are neither helpful nor accurate and it’s important to know where this labelling has come from in the bicentenary year of the abolition of the slave trade act,’ Lee Jasper, chair of the African Caribbean Mental Health Commission said.

‘The strength of joint working cannot be underestimated. There is an important role for all churches, but especially black majority churches, in turning this situation around. We have not been aware as we might have been in the past over this issue but it is important for us to ensure that, that we never let people from our community be treated as less than human, because then it gives an unwitting license for the services to do the same.’ Pastor Ade Omooba, co-founder of Cohesive and Coherent Voice said.

‘The latest Census shows black patients are more likely to be restrained than any other ethnic group. We will mark the 10th anniversary of David Bennett’s death next year. He died after a team of up to five nurses held him face down for almost half an hour. A real political commitment is needed from the Government if we want to avoid seeing another family lose their loved one in such a horrific way.’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.

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