Press Release: Black Leaders Launch Attack on Mental Health Bill


Author: press release
Report Date: Thursday, January 26, 2006

Press Release: Black Leaders Launch Attack on Mental Health Bill

Black parliamentarians, faith leaders and mental health experts have joined forces to push for a radical overhaul of the government’s troubled Mental Health Bill.


Current proposals will worsen the discrimination against Black people, who already suffer disproportionate sectioning, over-medication, and deaths by restrain in mental health institutions.

Speakers at the event – which is organised by Black-led human rights organisation The 1990 Trust – are:

Baroness Lola Young (ex-head of equalities at London’s City Hall)
Diane Abbott MP (keen interest in the issue) tbc
Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo (leader of Europe’s largest church, KICC)
Lee Jasper (chair of the African-Caribbean Mental Health Commission)
Dr Richard Stone (Stone Ashdown foundation; member of the David ‘Rocky’ Bennett mental health public inquiry, and the Stephen Lawrence public inquiry)
David Neita (barrister, Elect Mental Wealth, community mental health service provider and advocate)
Chinyere Inyama (president of the Mental Health Review Tribunal)
Professor Suman Fernando (consultant psychiatrist and lecturer on mental health) tbc
Event chaired by: Matilda MacAttram (Senior Race Relations Health Consultant -The 1990 Trust)

The 1990 Trust has a campaign against the Mental Health Bill, and is calling for it to be rewritten to address the institutional racism  within the service.

Count Me In, the first national census of inpatient psychiatric hospitals published last month, confirmed that mental health services are riddled with racism with African Caribbean’s making up almost 10% of mental health patients despite being only 3% of the general population.

African-Caribbeans are:

· 44% more likely to be sectioned.
· Twice as likely to be referred to mental health services through forensic services
· Detention rates for African-Caribbean’s are 25% -28% higher that that of white British groups.
· They are 70% less likely to be referred by their GP for counselling and other non-institutional help to recover.
· Referral rates by police are almost double that of white British groups.
· The use of control and restraint is 29% higher for Black inpatients.
· Seclusion rates are 50% higher.

The 1990 Trust believes the lessons of the David ‘Rocky’ Bennett public inquiry (sparked by the violent death of the mental health patient in 1998) which reported in July 2004, have not been learnt.

There is no justification whatsoever for Black people to be disproportionately sectioned, detained, over-medicated or restrained. The only explanation is racism and stereotyping within the health system.

The Government should be tackling this problem as a matter of priority. Instead the draft Mental Health Bill will make the situation worse.

We believe the Mental Health Bill is fundamentally flawed. Its proposals will give a green light to health professionals to carry on discriminating.

Black communities are acutely aware of this issue. Reforming the Bill is a major test of the government’s commitment to race equality.

Matilda MacAttram, of The 1990 Trust, said: “The pressure is building on the Government to finally listen to the concerns of community leaders, mental health experts, politicians and church leaders, who are coming together to say ‘we demand a complete rewrite of the Bill to ensure our communities no longer face racism in mental health.’

“The government were criticised over their shoddy consultation with Black communities over this Bill, and as a result they were forced to agree to a new consultation (Race Equality Impact Assessment). We confidently predict that the Department of Health will now hear Black voices loud and clear saying this Bill is unacceptable. Ministers must respond positively.”


Published by the 1990 Trust