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PRESS RELEASE: Black churches say stop mental health abuse

Press release
17/8/2006

BLACK-MAJORITY Churches (BMCs), representing hundreds of thousands of church goers, have thrown their weight behind a campaign calling on the Government to make the bad treatment of African Caribbean’s in psychiatric care a national priority.

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The international conference of Europe’s largest church, KICC, will be used as a launch pad for a new campaign on Black Mental Health, led by the human rights group BLF (The Black Londoner’s Forum) due to kick off on Monday 20th August.

The African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, The Council of Black Led Churches and Christian’s Together in Brent are among the church supporters of Black Mental Health UK, a campaign fighting for the civil and human rights of Black patients to be included in the current review of the 1983 Mental Health Act.

African Caribbean’s make up a third of patients in medium psychiatric care despite being less than three percent of the national population. This group are subject to unacceptably high rates of sectioning, control and restraint, over-medication and misdiagnosis despite similar rates of mental ill health as other ethnic groups.

BMCs outraged at the violations of human and civil rights Black people suffer under the 1983 Act and  are calling on the Government to take on board their legal duties under the Human Right Act and Race Relations Amendment Act. This has been repeatedly sidelined in the recent review of the 1983 Mental Health Act, due to be introduced to Parliament in the Autumn.

‘This campaign will stop the Government in its tracks and force them to take on board the views church leaders who represent the majority of  black people in this country.   We are fighting for our civil and human rights. The Bennett Inquiry proves that  getting the law right is a matter of life and death for people in our community,’ campaign supporter and barrister David Neita said.

‘The fact that this Bill has not gone to parliament is a great opportunity for us to impress upon government the radical change that we need to see in the redrafting of the Bill.

Launching this campaign during the national conference of Europe’s largest church is a huge opportunity for Black Churches as a whole to demonstrate their collective strength and use it to galvanise the community, disproportionately effected by this issue into action.’ Lee Jasper, Chair of the African Caribbean Mental Health Commission said.

‘It is unacceptable to think that we would stand by and allow legislation which will negatively effect another generation in our community to go by uncontested. This is a democracy and we will use the system to effect the change that we want to see as we did last time with the defeat of the 2004 Mental Health Bill.’ Eroll Walter’s director of BLF said.

The Black Mental Health UK campaign is demanding that the rights of black patients are acknowledged and the treatment of African Caribbean’s in psychiatric care is made a national priority in order to avoid another tragedy which led to the Bennett Inquiry report.

MATILDA MACATTRAM IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS: call 07852 182 750

Notes to editors:

1. Black Mental Health UK campaign against the Governments proposals in the 1983 Mental Health Act can be access at www.blackmentalhealth.org.uk

2. ACEA (African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance) works with over 1280 BMCs and 1,600 individuals.

3. CBLC (Council of Black Led Churches)  represents 150 churches in Birmingham and represents 30,000 members.

4. KICC (Kingsway International Christian Centre) IOGC International Gathering of Champions takes place at 52 Waterden Road, Hackney E15 from 20th – 27th August 2006.  200,000 delegates will attend this conference during the seven  day period.

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