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A voice for mental health

by Joy Francis
14/10/2005

BLACK MENTAL HEALTH service users will be facilitated to develop a ‘coherent’ voice to transform services, treatment and their recovery with the launch of the National Service User Forum at the end of the year.

Marcel Vige, Dr. David Sallah, A carer and Chinyere Inyama
Marcel Vige, Dr David Sallah, a carer and Chinyere Inyama at the conference.

The announcement, made this week by the National BME Mental Health Network at its Turning the Tide conference, aims to build a ‘coherent service user voice’ amid a 'glimmer of opportunity' provided by the government's Delivering Race Equality and the David 'Rocky' Bennett Inquiry report.

Peter Blackman, director of the Afiya Trust, the host agency for the Network, said: “A glimmer of opportunity has been created with positive statements from the Department of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health England’s five-year DRE Action Plan.”

glimmer

He continued: “Some mental health trusts are echoing that intent in a practical way and the voluntary sector has enhanced leverage to develop their work with BME communities.

Dean Pinnock
Dean Pinnock speaks at a workshop.

“But we have to develop service user-led solutions and develop a coherent collective service user voice. This opportunity may only be a glimmer, but it mustn’t be squandered.”

The Forum will be service user-led, represent carers and will work alongside the Network to ensure that DRE is relevant and inclusive of Black users.

Calls to petition on the beleaguered mental health Bill and to feed into the development of its code of practice and Race Impact Assessment are already on the agenda.

Mr Blackman, who is himself a survivor, said that amplifying the role of service users was on the Network’s agenda from its launch a year ago as they are still marginalised and excluded from the national agenda.

empowered

“White service users have quite a strong voice. Black service users don’t,” claimed Blackman.  Angela Linton-Abulu, project co-ordinator for the nine-year-old Black Women's Mental Health Project, feels that it is still too early for her to get excited at the prospect of a Service User Forum.

Audience
Audience at the conference.

She warned: “We have to be empowered to take the lead and for them [professionals] to be invited in, not the other way round. If this happens, a national Service User Forum is not going to work.

Many initiatives have gone on in our name with people taking our money and resources. A successful Forum has to be my passion and help towards my recovery and my empowerment.”

Carol Jenkin from the Buddies group in Bradford, added: “We want to make changes to a mental health system that is abusive, that keeps Black people within the system and spits them out again when they are poorly.

“When they become unwell again they are forced into a cycle of non-recovery. Service users are not the side agenda, we are the agenda.”

invaluable

Mr Blackman is adamant that the Forum will not be a symbolic tool of the Network and, when pressed about how the Forum will be funded, he said: “We are optimistic that we will be able to achieve the employment of a service user to create a National Service User Forum by the end of the year.”

 - forum -
   Have Your Say

The Network’s existing members, who span psychiatrists, service users, voluntary and community organisations as well as statutory bodies, will be a useful starting point.

Networks will be developed through the Forum in London and other regions with plans to work “very closely” with NIMHE and the DRE’s programme director Professor David Sallah.

As well as the launch of the Service User Forum, the two-day Turning the Tide conference considered the implications of Count Me In, the UK's first National Mental Health and Ethnicity Census.

Conducted on 31st March by the Mental Health Act Commission and the National Institute for Mental Health England, its much-anticipated findings are expected to be published within the next two weeks.

The census will provide invaluable information on patients’ ethnicity, language, religion and recorded injury to patients, and will provide a more comprehensive picture of the BME experience of psychiatric care.

Professor David Sallah, director of the DRE programme at NIMHE and a conference speaker, said that he was “very pleased with the response rate” which was 100% from the NHS and 85% from private and voluntary sector hospitals.

On the ” critical issue of ethnicity” he said that over 80% of patients voluntarily identified their ethnicity – “a first really”. Karen Chouhan, Chief Executive of The 1990 Trust, chaired the second day’s plenary session.

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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

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