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Mental health under the spotlight

SPEAKERS: Bob Jones (left) and Alicia Spence

THE FIRST national conference focusing on black mental health is being held in Wolverhampton this week.

Mental Health & Black Briton: The African Caribbean Experience the event has been organised by the Wolverhampton-based African Caribbean Community Initiative (ACCI) and Black Mental Health UK.

High profile speakers include Norman Lamb, Minister of State for Care and Support; Bob Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands; David Prior, chair of the Care Quality Commission; Matilda McAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK, and Alicia Spence, services director for ACCI.

Data from the ‘Count Me In Census’ report from 2005 to 2011 show that of all ethnic groups, people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities are 50 per cent more likely to be referred to mental health services via the police than their white counterparts. Entry to mental health services via the police is the norm for many black people.

High profile cases of deaths in police custody, such as Kingsley Burrell-Brown, Sean Rigg, Olaseni Lewis, Mikey Powell and Roger Sylvester provide further evidence that failures in policing of mental health service users is having a negative impact on the UK’s black community.

Matilda McAttram said: “The issue of policing and mental health is something that touches the lives of almost every family from the UK’s African Caribbean community, but there has never been a forum where this issue, which has been largely viewed as taboo, can be discussed with the country’s leading political figures. This event marks a watershed in how this issue is viewed and is part of many years of work by both the ACCI and BMH UK to get this issue on the political agenda.

She added: “While there are pockets of good practice within the police, the consistent failures within this arena are being felt the hardest by our communities.”

The conference will be held at Wolverhampton Wanderers’ FC Molineux Conference Centre on Waterloo Road, on Thursday, June 27 between 9.30am and 4.30pm. For further details visit: www.blackmentalhealth.org.uk.

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