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Rise in black people detained under the mental health act

STIGMA: African Caribbeans are treated differently by mental health professionals putting them at risk of crisis

AT A time when a large scale consultation by NHS England into emergency services is taking place, there is concern that mental health does not feature highly or at all in the review.

According to Black Mental Health UK, the campaign group established to raise awareness of the stigma associated with mental health, detention rates among the UK's African Caribbean community have doubled during the period of 2005 – 2010.

The last five years have seen a consecutive increase in detentions under the Mental Health Act and the continual over representation of black and minority ethnic (BME) groups.

Male inpatients from Black African backgrounds are significantly more likely to have committed suicide than White British men.

The new NHS review of emergency services, which will be published on 24 October, features recommendations in response to the issues when dealing with mental health, ethnicity, suicide and the emergency services.

This follows a report by the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing, chaired by Lord Victor Adebowale report, the chief executive of mental health care provide Turning Point. The report raised issues about NHS services and police knowledge as well as emergency communications in meeting the needs of people who need help.

PROBLEMS

It identified major problems in the lack of training and policy guidance of suicide prevention, mental health awareness among staff officers, discriminatory attitudes and behaviours and failure of procedures to provide adequate care to vulnerable people.

Kamaldeep Bhui, a Professor of Cultural Psychiatry and Epidemilogy and director of the Cultural Consultation Service said: “The report brings up a number of problems in policing, there should be better leadership in managing emergencies, that front line policing should take into account of mental health problems since most of the people they deal with have mental health problem.

The Care Quality Commission were concerned by the number of mental health detention which involves the police.

Bhui said: “Detaining people can’t be the right way to look after people with mental health problems.”

Lorna* from Essex is a former mental health worker who spoke to The Voice about her own personal experience of mental health problems. In 2002 she was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.

She said: “There is definitely a cultural ignorance among the staff. I find myself on the other side of the coin now having to use mental health services.”

Lorna spoke about the different way staff professionals would treat service users depending on whether or not they were smartly dressed as their mental problems were not visible enough.

She said: “They look at you and think that you’re managing and ask what’s the problem with you, so that’s becomes the biggest barrier to being listened to or getting any support from any mental health service or worker and that includes social workers, psychiatrists, sometimes the GP themselves. I have spoken to other BME’s who have experienced the same problems.”

With one in four people being affected by mental health problems, the charity organisation Mind, provide advice and support to empowe anyone experiencing problems.

Following a Freedom of Information Act requests to mental health trusts across England and Wales, the charity led a year-long independent inquiry, which found that people from some BME groups seem to be treated more neglectfully or coercively by the crisis care system than other people.

The Mental Health Minimum Data Set, released in March 2013, showed that more than 60 per cent of inpatients from the Mixed White and Black African, Caribbean, African and Any Other Black backgrounds were treated under a section of the Mental Health Act (‘sectioned’), compared with less than 40 per cent of the White British group.

SUPPORT

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Crisis and acute mental health services are a crucial part of mental health care, providing support and treatment for people when they are most unwell and vulnerable.

Our research suggests that some groups aren’t getting help in crisis, while others may be let down by other parts of the system meaning they are more likely to reach crisis point.

Lorna can relate to this, after she went through a difficult time suffering racial abuse in 2001 from members of the Asian community in Redbridge.

She said: “I spoke to my GP who was Asian about it and the first thing he said to me was ‘well you need to go back to your country if you can’t take these problems.’

SUICIDAL

Lorna quickly found herself in a crisis, and feeling suicidal because of the problems she was experiencing.

“I started having panic attacks…I would call the police and they wouldn’t come,” she recalled.

“I couldn’t leave the house as a result lost my job, it was a domino affect I couldn’t pay my mortgage, they reprocessed the house and I became homeless. This happened over a few months – within less than a year. I couldn’t function.”

The mother-of-two added that the lack of support from local housing services and GP caused her to have a breakdown.

“I became suicidal and lost the house. I had put quite a substantial amount of life savings on a deposit.”

Lorna took an overdose and was admitted to hospital where she nearly died.

“My heart had actually stopped and I had to be resuscitated twice.”

She admitted to “feeling disappointed’ upon realising her suicide attempt has been unsuccessful.

In June 2012 she found herself in crisis following a year of racial abuse from another neighbour. Once again she highlighted the lack of support she received from health services particular crisis care.

A hospital volunteer, Lorna believes crisis lines should be available 24-hour hours a day and be more responsive to their callers needs.

She said: “All staff should be trained across the country in the right way, such as the police as they don’t know how to deal with people with mental health issues, so it’s a big challenge. They shouldn’t be trained by professional to professional only, they need to have a service user, so we can tell them how we felt and what would have helped to give them practical experience.”

*Not her real name

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