Community back BMH UK’s condemnation of student death after police restraint

Community back BMH UK

Community activists, health campaigners have come out in support of Black Mental Health UK’s condemnation of the death of a 23 year old student who lost his life after being restrained of by a team of seven police officers on a psychiatric ward in Beckenham, South London.

Olaseni Lewis lost his life on the same day that Colin Holt a 57 year old black service users also suffered fatal injuries after police went to his home on the 31st of August this year.

Olaseni, known to his family as Seni, was a second year Masters student at Kingston University. He had no prior history of mental illness but his family noted that he was acting strangely that sought professional help. He was then admitted as a vulnerable voluntary patient at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham early in the evening of Tuesday 31 August.

Just hours after his family left the hospital Seni was reported to have become agitated, staff called the police to restrain him. Up to seven Met officers pinned Seni down; his airway became blocked, unable to breath he fell into a coma.

He was rushed to Mayday Hospital and confirmed brain dead on September 3, his life support was turned off the following day.

These deaths have led to calls for an end to the use of prone restraint on mental health service users and for all mental health providers to phase out the use of calling police to deal with internal incidences within psychiatric settings.

These tragedies have also highlighted the failure of the Department of Health’s million pound Delivering Race Equality Programme, which was rolled out in response to the David Bennett Inquiry report.

In 1998, Bennett died after he was forcibly restrained by a team of up to five nurses for over 25 minutes.

Recommendations included calls to ensure that no patient be restrained in the prone position for more than 3 minutes and the introduction of a national system on control and restrain.

‘Olaseni Lewis and Colin Holt are the latest in a long line of service users who have lost their lives in this way. There needs to be full accountability when a death occurs and a commitment to fully implement the Bennett Inquiry recommendations in order to see change in this arena,’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.

‘The death of Seni Lewis should not have happen in this day and age. Sadly this is price that black people pay for the failure to implement the recommendation of the Rocky Bennett inquiry,’ Prof Sashi Sashidaran, consultant psychiatrist and panel member on the David Bennett Inquiry.

‘People with mental illness should not be restrained period. It is quite shocking that this can still happen two years after my brother died. It is absolutely that is crucial that the Bennett Report recommendations are revisited and fully implemented,’ Marcia Rigg from the Sean Rigg Justice and Change campaign said.

‘Rather than spending billions on medication investment should be made in devising more humane intervention when dealing with people who need help. We need to come to a place where there is no restraint in the 21st century. We should be able to find other techniques which aren’t killing people,’ Rev Paul Grey, service user activist said.

‘What is obvious is that nothing has changed since the David Bennett inquiry report. We had a similar situation with one of our own service users here in Wolverhampton so we know that this kind of treatment that is resulting in patient deaths. It begs the question, how many others has this happened to that we are not even aware of,’ Alicia Spence services director at the African Caribbean Community Initiative (ACCI) said.

‘It is quite tragic that another young black man has been cut down in his prime by the agencies we expect to protect us. We would have hoped with all the resources and time that has been spent on this matter, that these failings in the system would have been addressed by now,’ Olu Alake president of 100 Black Men of London said.

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