First featured on Colourful Radio, London’s only black owned radio station, this list of 30 brilliant and beautiful women includes many unsung heros as well as leaders in their fields whose work in this area often goes unnoticed.
In no particular order because every sister listed here is incredible in their own right we give a massive ‘shout out’ to:
1. Visiting Professor University of West Indies, Dr Joanna Bennett singlehandedly changed the mental health landscape in the UK with her campaigning for an inquiry into the tragic death of her younger brother David ‘Rocky’ Bennett, which led to the David Bennett Inquiry report of 2005.
2. Alicia Spence, services director, ACCI (African Caribbean Community Initiative), the oldest surviving black led community based mental health service in the country.
3. Estella Western, director, Family Health Isis, runs London’s oldest black led community based mental health services in the Capital.
4. Cllr Sandra Samuels, clinician and local politician, works tirelessly behind the scenes for the health and wellbeing of the community in the West Midlands and beyond.
5. Saundra Glenn, chair of the Luton Independent Advisory Group to Bedforshire police, a fearless advocate for those facing injustice at the hands of the police.
6. Elizabeth Pears, editor The Voice Newspaper, is steering Briton’s leading black newspaper to new heights with a clear commitment to community concerns.
7. Michelle Fullerton, aunt of Jonathan Malia, a physically healthy 23-year-old, who lost his life while in the care of mental health services. Her resolve to uncover the truth and get justice for her nephew is commendable.
8. Baroness Jenny Jones, deputy chair of London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, has used her office and influence to fight against injustice faced by black Londoner’s who use mental health services and ensure that attempts to cover-up practices of officers with Taser’s and firearms being called onto hospital wards is brought to the attention of leaders at the highest levels government and the police.
9. Jenette Arnold OBE has used her position as London Assembly member to fight against the injustices faced by the stakeholder groups BMH UK has been set up to serve and has supported this work behind the scenes.
10. Professor Verene Shepherd Chair of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, with a remit covering four continents, she has still found time to support the work of BMH UK.
11. June Ray, Chief of Civil Society Section, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, her commitment to empowering civil society agencies to have influence international human rights arena has greatly assisted BMH UK’s work.
12. Finola Kelly, head of parliamentary and public affairs, Equalities and Human Rights Commission, willingness to share her encyclopedic knowledge of this sector has assisted in BMH UK’s campaigns to improve the treatment of black people who come in contact with mental health services.
13. Dr Michelle Funk Coordinator, Mental Health Policy and Service Development, Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO (World Health Organisation). Her support of BMH UK’s work including disseminating the online magazine The Solution across WHO’s networks ensures our messages have reached professionals cross the globe.
14. Jenny Martin, West Midlands Black Self Organised Group, Unison, has repeatedly raised key issues concerning human rights concerns of black people detained under the Mental Health Act within her union.
15. Sophie Prichard, The Edge Fund, the driving force behind this ground breaking grant making body working to support independent, grassroots groups that are working for justice and equality as well as supporting the work of member groups like BMH UK.
16. Kedisha Burrell-Brown, three years after the death of her physically healthy brother Kingsley Burrell-Brown, 29, after he was restrained by police while detained under the Mental Health Act, she continues her fight for justice with planned march for justice in Birmingham, to mark the third anniversary of his death on Saturday 29th March 2014.
17. Matilda MacAttram, director, Black Mental Health UK, continuing the much needed work to bring about wholesale change in the coercive and often punitive treatment all too often meted out to people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities who come in contact with mental health services and the agencies that support them.
18. Sheila Sylvester mother of Roger Sylvester who died after he was restrained by eight police officers, at a psychiatric unit 1999. 15 years after this tragic incident, Sheila along with her family continue to fight for justice.
19. Rachel Barclay, recognising the critical needs of so many from the community who use mental health services, that are ignored by the statutory sector, she has set up a number of support and advocacy groups for the people from the UKs African Caribbean communities, which have proved to be a life saver for many.
20. Marie Walker, Black People’s Mental Health Association, faced with an ever increasing demand for black led, community based, culturally sensitive and compassionate services for people from the community who have been forced to use psychiatric services, Walker and her team, continue to fight to provide a safe space, and support for a vulnerable group in the face of cut backs and the threat of closure.
21. Dr Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director of Mental Health, NHS England. A much needed breath of fresh air in this sector. Her willingness to listen to the concerns of marginalised groups, previously sidelined at senior levels, accompanied by her commitment to bring about positive change in this sector brings hope to the communities BMH UK has been set up to serve.
22. Yvonne Mosquito Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, working in a part of the country with some of the best practice in the area of policing and mental health, behind the scenes, Mosquito is an has been an advocate for vulnerable groups that BMH UK has been set up to serve.
23. Commander Christine Jones, Metropolitan Police’s lead for Mental Health & ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) lead for mental health. Her work is driving through much needed change and it is hoped this will result in an end to the over reliance on police for the management of vulnerable people in distress, whether in the community or when detained in hospital, in the care of statutory mental health services.
24. Janet Alder has been, fighting for justice for her brother Christopher Alder, former paratrooper and Falklands Veteran who was decorated for his service in the British Army who died in police custody. For the past 16 years Janet has campaigned for justice for her brother. She is the first private individual to bring a civil litigation case against the Crown Prosecution service. In 2011 the UK Government was forced issue a landmark apology for her brother’s death to her family through the European Court of Human Rights.
25. Pam Blake, Maat Probe Group Sheffield, with firsthand experience of the inhumane practice of restraint of patients while detained under the Mental Health Act, she advocates for humane alternatives and therapeutic care for those detained in this system.
26. Marcia Jarrett manager, Tamarind centre supporting minority communities in Coventry. This unsung hero continues to fight for often the most basic rights of one of the most marginalised groups in this city in need of culturally appropriate mental health care and support.
27. Halima Sayed, Black Women’s Forum UK, among a new generation of inspirational young activist and campaigners, fighting black women to take their rightful place at the forefront of the movement for progressive change.
28. Malia Bouattia, NUS Black Students’ Campaign, her fearless commitment to address racial injustices and human rights abuses confirms her as one of a new generation of leaders.
29. Marcia Rigg, Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign, six years after her brother Sean Rigg’s death at the hand of the police while in urgent need of mental health care, her tireless commitment to ensure justice in this case regardless of the obstacles faced is an inspiration.
30. Angella Corinna, a poet, singer and songwriter, her creative ability to articulate the journey to recovery gives voice to the as yet, unheard experience of black women from the UK’s African Caribbean communities, the one group, who subject to detention under the Mental Health Act in the greatest numbers.