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Where Now for Black Mental Health?

MacAttram - Consultation needed

A Black mental health campaigner has called on the government to fully consult Black communities as part of new health commission.

The general election marked a dramatic increase in the number of black MPs now in Parliament which is cause for celebration. Yet while we strive for better representation at all levels of society, we renew the fight in tackling black over representation elsewhere.

New figures have revealed that black people make up an astonishing percentage of those detained under the mental health Act. The new figures show that of the 31.8% of people who are detained involuntarily a shocking 53.8% are black. Well over half.

The figures compiled from the ‘count me in census’ show that black people now make up 22% of the patients currently accessing mental health services. A 2% rise since 2005.

The study also shows that black people are more likely to be detained involuntarily under the mental health act despite having no higher rate of mental illness when compared with other ethnic groups.

This speaks of a culture of embedded institutional racism endemic in the mental health service. While we need to do more within our communities to shed the taboos surrounding mental health issues, it’s obvious that more needs to be done from the top down in dealing with the gross inequalities that minority communities continue to face.

Andrew Lansley the health minister has announced the formation of an independent commission, which will seek to identify ways to reform the health and social care system. With frontline cuts to be announced elsewhere, the commission has the potential to make a positive mark on the state of black mental health.

OBV blog asked Matilda MacAttram, Director Black Mental Health UK, for her response to this announcement:

“We welcome Lansley’s independent commissions and highlight the need for expert advice from our communities be a part of this commission from the outset so that the needs of this group are not sidelined in this process.

Getting this right could save the NHS millions and even more importantly than that – it would also prevent the often needless loss of life.”

While over-representation of black people in the mental health system is a problem, it presents an opportunity for the new coalition to prove their worth. Let’s hope the new government marks a new approach in dealing with the problem.

By Richard Sudan

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