Yesterday, 18th August 2012, saw the second march to protest at the non-action since the death in Birmingham of Kingsley Burrell. This happened at the Mary Seacole Centre. Kingsley had called the police when he and his young son were threatened by a group of youth on Icknield Port Road. The police decided to detain him and he was taken to the mental health hospital and sectioned. His family say he had no record of mental health. A few days later police were called to the centre. Kingsley ended up in hospital where he died. After a year the body is only now being released. The family and we are none the wiser how and why he died. He is one of a large number of statistics of deaths in custody, many of which involve mental health issues.
I met Jenny Cooper and her family at the march. She was beaten up by police in Wolverhampton two years ago and remains severely disabled. The police say they have held an enquiry, but they haven;t release their findings to Jenny. She and her family have been continually harassed over many years, and police have raided her house and the homes of her daughters on numerous occasions. On one occasion an officer told Jenny "she was mad" and he would have her sectioned. Another black Wolverhampton woman told me that she had been brutally treated by police and on occasions taken into cells and beaten or taken to a mental health institution. She complained but got no satisfaction. Both prisons (7 black people to one white person in UK) and mental health secure institutions show black over representation. This is how it happens. There needs to be a police watch, starting with Wolverhampton's Bilston Street Station in the West Midlands.
If someone is thought to have a mental health problem, then why are they given a beating? It happened to Mikey Powell in Handsworth district of Birmingham in 2004. Aljazeera talks about people being caged or bound and badly treated in the third world. Not much progress here after the David Bennett report and the Lawrence enquiry.
Review of Mental Capacity legislation is necessary. Intended to protect people deemed to lack capacity it appears authorities may use it to justify their actions geared to their own needs. Health trust officials are making decisions on behalf of those who are deemed to lack capacity when they have no right to make such uniateral decisions. Report to follow
A booklet entitled "Aspects of Mental Health in a Multi-Cultural Society" was published by the former Community Relations Commision in 1976. The forward by David (Lord) Pitt states:
" The aim of this booklet is to provide guidance for professionals, particularly doctors and social workers, to help them meet the needs of members of minority ethnic groups who have mental health problems. Two points are emphasised in the booklet. One is the importance of cultural background in the presentation of illness. The other is the stress to which ethnic minorities are exposed in the process of migration and particularly in their adjustment to life in this country.
Much of a psychiatrist's work, and certainly that of a social worker, is not concerned with formal mental illness, but with effects of socially determined conditions such as poor housing, unemployment and relative poverty. Any newcomer is exposed to social disadvantage, aggravated in the case of black immigrants by racial prejudice and discrimination.
Racial prejudice and discrimination are undoubtedly the most urgent and serious problems facing minority ethnic groups in this country. all the people we interviewed in the course of preparing this booklet stressed this. The effect of discrimination on mental health is uncertain, but the fact that its affects general well-being and happiness can hardly be doubted. This must be recognised by doctors and social workers, a task the National Health Service should find raltively easy because of the large numbers of members of minority ethnic groups working as prfessionals in the service."
Three decades on where have we been reached? Reports churned out annually repeat a problem with mental health higher than average among black groups, now not newly arrived and not a minority in an increasing number of cities in the UK. The statement emphasised in the first paragraph "the importance of cultural background in the presentation of illness" seems as little understood now as it was then. The consequences are alarming.
In addition a medical model of illness persists in medical circles, but particularly it seems in mental health, whereas the probable causes are likely to be socially determined. The idea that because many people from minority ethnic groups work as professionals in the health service is going to help has proved a great fallacy. While there is probably now a much greater number of those groups in the service their numbers in positions as consultants remains proportionally small, particularly so for the African and Caribbean communities. Fanon's work has a particular resonance in our present society.
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