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Black Mental Health, UK

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Jul. 6th, 2007 | 03:03 pm
posted by: shewhohashope in ms_anthropology

BMH: Faith and human rights groups pin hopes on House of Lords debate to tackle racist Mental Health Bill

The troubled 2006 Mental Health Bill will be debated in the House of Lords this afternoon with the major concerns of race equality and faith groups still unresolved.

A last minute meeting with Health minister, Lord Hunt, church leaders and campaigns groups Black Mental Health UK, late last week, over plans to allow forced treatment within the community have still not been addressed.

Department of Health officials confirmed that the criteria for getting on or off a CTO (community treatment order) would be similar to begin sectioned and forecasted that three thousand people would be likely to end up on them in the first five years.

With rates of sectioning for people from African Caribbean communities 44% higher than British white people despite similar rates of mental health these figures come as cold comfort.
‘The Christian message is one of love but it’s also message of truth we have to make it clear that the Bill as drafted will be discriminatory unless CTO are removed. The reality on the ground does not always match up to what the government says is often very different for us’ Pastor Ade Omooba co-founder of the Christian think tank Coherent and Cohesive voice said.

Despite efforts to sideline health experts concerns over these plans, a highly publicised letter from the Commission for Racial Equality to Health Minister Rosie Winterton stated that forced community treatment along with widening definition of mental illness flies in the face of race relations law.

‘We stated from the outset that CTOs have no place in mental health legislation and cannot afford to move from this position given the extensive body of evidence that confirms that huge numbers of people from our community are routinely misdiagnosed, over medicated, forcibly restrained and placed in seclusion under the current Act, ’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.

Amendments to the Bill when it was debated in the House of Commons last month including the right to advocacy. While welcomed from many quarters, church leaders have warned that unless there is the legal right to an independent advocate, trained in cultural competence, before detention it will make little difference to widespread discrimination black patients suffer under the 1983 Mental Health Act. ‘It is helpful to know that the Government are clear that we are calling for the legal right to an advocate before detention’ Pastor Ade Omooba commented after the meeting with Lord Hunt.

‘It’s much more important to have an advocate before sectioning. There is too much sectioning and black people get labelled to quickly. Once you’re put on a section it’s very difficult to get out of it, the main thing is, not to avoid getting help, but to avoid getting into the psychiatric system as it is often an impediment to getting help. The statutory right to and advocate at the point of being considered for sectioning would address this,’ consultant psychiatrist professor Fernando said.

‘The Bill is currently drafted it will stop people from approaching the services. The failings of mental health services are well known in our communities. There is a needs for statutory measures to ensure the right assistance is available before or when sectioning is being considered.’ Pastor Desmond Hall chair of Christians Together in Brent said.
Principles have been added to the face of the Bill after the two days of debateBill in the House of Commons last month, ‘while this is welcomed but it does not go far enough, unless there is a clear reference to race equality on the face of Bill it does not get the prominence it requires to address the findings of the Bennett Inquiry report. We are keen to see this addressed during the debate in the Lords this afternoon,’ Matilda MacAttram said.

With just one day of debate of the 2006 Mental Health Bill in the House of Lords today Black Mental Health UK are keen to see the following areas of this legislation resolved.
• A set of race equality principles on the face of the 2006 Mental Health Bill
• A statutory right to advocacy before detention
• The removal of community treatment orders from the 2006 Mental Health Blll
• Clear exclusions on the definition of mental illness so that no one can be detained on the basis of their political, cultural or religious beliefs.

Wanted: A human rights lawyer to challenge the ‘racist’ Mental Health Bill

Peers lacked vital information needed to make an informed decision

The debate in the House of Lords earlier this week on the highly contested Mental Hill Bill lacked vital information from the CRE, but ended with a call for a legal challenge to be mounted, on account of the Bill’s failure to meet the legal requirements of Race Relations laws.

A controversial aspect of the Bill is the proposed introduction of Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) which would allow forced treatment within the community. Department of Health officials confirmed that the criteria for getting on or off a CTO would be similar to being sectioned and forecasted that three thousand people could end up on CTOs within the first five years.

But the rates of sectioning for the African Caribbean community are 44 per cent higher than white British people despite similar rates of mental health. Another crucial point of contestation is the demand by mental health campaigners for the right to independent advocacy by a culturally competent practitioner. Commenting on the debate, Matilda MacAttram, Director of Black Mental BMHUK told Black Britain: “The debate was welcomed, but from the viewpoint of BMHUK, we do not believe that the peers in the House of Lords were privy to all the information they needed in order to make a decision.”

She said that crucial information from the CRE was missing – that the Race Equality Impact Assessment for the Mental Health Bill is flawed and falls short of legal requirements. “If peers and MPs had been given access to this information from the outset, their decision would be very clear. “There is widespread acknowledgement that mental health services are institutionally racist,” Mac Attram said.

The BMHUK Director said that it is important to assert the extent of racism within the mental health system, because “there is another agenda to present ignorance about the reasons there are such high numbers of African Caribbean people within the system.” She added that it must not be forgotten that Sir John Bloefeld, a retired High Court judge concluded after the Rocky Bennett enquiry that the mental health system in the UK is “institutionally racist.”

“We cannot afford to keep quiet about this, especially when, as Lord Patel argued, there are mischievous elements at work trying to undermine this argument.” Lord Patel called for a legal challenge to the Mental Health Bill because it will discriminate, a fact argued by the CRE. “We have 30 years of work to show that mental health services are discriminatory and this Bill will make things a lot worse,” Mac Attram said.

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