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More Rocky Bennett's will die under Mental Health Bill

by Lester Holloway
30/11/2004

MORE BLACK men like David 'Rocky' Bennett will die in the mental health institutions under the government's Mental Health Bill. Experts say detention and medication will increase if ministers plans become law.

Dr Joanna Bennett: called for safeguards
Dr Joanna Bennett, sister of David 'Rocky' Bennett

With African-Caribbean men already six times more likely to be sectioned and medicated than their white counterparts fears are growing that disproportionality could increase further.

Health ministers have angered experts with a weak response to the findings of the David 'Rocky' Bennett public inquiry, published last February.

Health Secretary Dr John Reid has sidelined the Bennett recommendations in favour of a hardline Mental Health Bill which makes it easier to compulsorily detain and medicate, critics say.

Reid has been accused of kicking the Bennett report into the long grass using the Department of Health's BME Mental Health Steering Group, chaired by 'People's Peer' Lord Victor Adebowale, who has also recently taken charge of a new Home Office stop and search panel.

'cost lives'

Speaking yesterday Dr Richard Stone, a member of the Bennett inquiry, angrily accused ministers of shunning the recommendation to limit the restraint of mental patients face-down to three minutes. Their failure to do so will cost lives, he warned. “I can't see anything in the Bill that will deal with the abuse of powers of restraint.”

David 'Rocky' Bennett: Did he die in vain?
David 'Rocky' Bennett: Did he die in vain?

The government's draft Mental Health Bill, announced in last week's Queen's Speech, came in for heavy criticism at a 1990 Trust public meeting in yesterday, with professionals voicing concerns over anti-black discrimination.

Ministers were too preoccupied with playing up to public fears of the mentally-ill by introducing measures to increase numbers in the system rather than put an emphasis on creating a user-friendly service giving help to people at an early stage.

The Bill has also been criticised for making compulsory medication easier to administer and for widening the definition of a mental disorder which some fear would give police a green light to arrest anyone they believed was suffering a 'disturbance in the functioning of the mind.'

dramatic

It has also emerged that there is only one African-Caribbean member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal in Britain, and a reduction in the numbers of Black Mental Health Commissioners.

Dr Richard Stone: Bill won't stop more deaths
Dr Richard Stone: law won't stop more deaths

African-Caribbean communities comprising less than 3% of the national population, official figures show they make up 16% of high security detention, 30% of medium risk patients, and are also more likely to be given higher drug doses.

Despite this picture, Blink has learnt that solicitor Chinyere Inyama is the sole Mental Health Review Tribunal member. There is also one Asian representative.

Article continues >>


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Resources:

pdf The recruitment and retention of BME staff in the NHS

pdf Race Equality Foundation briefing: The impact of racism on health inequalities

pdf Race Equality Foundation briefing: Effective communication with service users

pdf Race Equality Foundation briefing: Improving the quality of palliative care

MIND: Rights Guides

pdf BME Needs Assessment: Diabetes and Hypertension

pdf Independent Inquiry into the death of David Bennett

pdf Draft Mental Health Bill

Links:

Nightingale Declaration

hyper GUIDE to the Mental Health Act.

MyHealthnet

Black People's Mental Health Association

Cancer Black Care

Black and Asian Therapists Online

African HIV Policy Network

National BME Mental health Network

The Afiya Trust

BMESpark

Fanon Care

The Federation

UNITE TO PROTECT OUR RIGHTS: sign the statement against the erosion of civil liberties and human rights by new anti-terrorism proposals A Black Manifesto No 2 ID FREE FAROUQ PDP ASSOCIATES Power to the People

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