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The drugs don't work

by Matilda MacAttram

AFRICAN CARIBBEANS are being drugged-up on mental health secure wards instead of getting care to help them recover, a new report has found.

Dr Joanna Bennett
Dr Joanna Bennett: campaigning for race equality in mental health services

The findings have revealed a disturbing picture of understaffed wards with 100% occupancy only offering treatment with powerful sedative drugs. 

The study of adult psychiatric wards in England exposes a service at crisis point, plagued by staff shortages, high use of powerful sedative drugs, lack of psychological treatment and compulsory mixed sexed wards.

Published by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health in association with the National Institute for Mental Health in England, the survey interviewed 300 ward managers across England.


It reveal that 50% of wards do not have a cultural sensitivity policy or a lead psychiatric consultant and many were completely without a ward manager or nurse above grade F.

 - forum -

Consultant psychiatrist Suman Fernando told Blink: “These findings are very shocking when you realise that it is the people who are most unwell that are getting the worse kind of care.

“The irony of it is, this is common knowledge to professionals in this sector. I welcome this report because it highlights the terrible state inpatient services and puts it on an official basis or there really wouldn’t be an acknowledgment of it.”


Findings in this report were published just one day after the Healthcare Commission, NHS watchdog, reported that a third of patients in mental health wards had experienced violent or threatening behaviour.

 - quote - People who go into in-patient care, and get better if they're lucky, break down again and go back into the system.  - unquote -
Dr Andrew Mcllock

These latest reports are the lasted in a litany of publications that have highlighted the poor and often damaging treatment meted out to African Caribbean’s forced into psychiatric services. 

Research shows that Black men are more likely to be forcibly restrained, overmedicated, misdiagnosed and detained in secure services than any other group.

The finding in the David ‘Rocky’ Bennett public inquiry, that looked at the reasons behind the untimely death of  Rocky while in psychiatric care, found mental health services to be institutionally racist.

These finding have increase the distrust in the BME community of mental health services leaving many  people to cope on their own until they reach a point of crisis. 


Professor Sashi Sashidran said: “There is concern about African Caribbean’s coming late to psychiatric services, but considering the treatment they receive in those places it is any wonder they turn their back on them?”

Community leaders said the report confirmed that things are steadily getting worse rather than better and were unhappy at the raft of well paid middle management jobs that have been created out of this crisis.

The report reveals that there are many wards across the country without separate sleeping or bathroom facilities. These are also the environments where there are very unwell men exhibit inappropriate and uninhibited behaviour.

There is now a growing consensus that without data on the experiences of women within psychiatric wards it is not possible to present a complete picture of secure psychiatric settings.

While there is no data on the numbers of Black women currently detain on secure psychiatric wards Penny Cutting, Manager of South London and Maudsley Mental Health Trust’s Women’s Services, told Blink: “My guess would be more African Caribbean women end up on a section than anyone else.”

Authors of this report are hoping their findings will impact on Department of Health and Health Commissioners priorities and lead to changes in policy and funding practices.

Co-author Ines Garcia told Blink: “We are hoping that this report would push this issue up the agenda of the Department of Health, NHS commissioners and Royal College of Psychiatry and ask what is the future of acute care in light of this survey.”

The ideas of providing Black led early intervention, crisis resolution, crisis management  centres and within the community could it is believed  to better engagement with mental health services.

But Dr Andrew Mcllock, Chief executive of the mental health foundation, commented: “The whole structure needs to change, at the moment people go into in-patient care and get better if they are lucky then break down again and go back into the system.  This is very expensive in financial and human terms.”

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pdf Independent Inquiry into the death of David Bennett

pdf Draft Mental Health Bill


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hyper GUIDE to the Mental Health Act.


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Cancer Black Care

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