BMH UK’s campaign was launched last year with an online petition after a spate of disturbing deaths of physically healthy black men, who lost their lives after coming in contact with the police and mental health services. This is an issue that is of particular concern for people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities, as this group are routinely referred to mental health hospitals via the police.
The lethal levels of force that has been used against men in crisis from the community when in need of mental health care has made this an issue of national concern for black Briton.
Growing ministerial concerns about the number of black men who have died in police custody, and the parliamentary debate tabled by Charles Walker MP entitled: ‘detention and deaths of black people in custody’ last year, led to the Home Secretary ordering an inquiry into the treatment of vulnerable people in police custody in January this year.
BMH UK welcome these developments and point to the urgent need for wholesale transformation in the way black people who are in need of mental health care are treated by agents of the state.
The disturbing practice of mental health trusts calling riot police onto mental health wards to restrain patients and the unethical practice of tasering patients on wards while they are in the care of mental health providers are among the issue that will be discussed at the meeting with the Home Secretary this week.
Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said: ‘The opportunity to discuss the issue of black deaths in custody with the Home Secretary is welcomed and comes on the back of many years of campaigning by BMH UK. Given the numbers of fatalities we have seen in the area of policing and mental health, contact with the police particularly for African Caribbean mental health service users should not really be happening at all.
The hope is that by Theresa May MP getting a firsthand insight on these issues from the community’s perspective, this will be part of the process that helps to bring about the transformative change that BMH UK believes urgently needs to take place in this sector to end to the brutal treatment of some of the most vulnerable people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities by agents of the state, particularly when they are in crisis.’