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By Newsdesk

Tuesday, April 2, 2013.

Health Minister Norman Lamb MP will be speaking at the first national conference on policing and mental health organised by leading agencies from the UK’s African Caribbean communities scheduled to take place at the Molineux Conference Centre in Wolverhampton, on Thursday 17th June 2013.

Entitled ‘Policing & Mental Health, Coercion or Care? ACCI & BMH UK National Conference 2013' this event offers the first ever public forum where the most senior political figures in both mental health and policing will be able to discuss this issue with leading professionals across the West Midlands and beyond.

Human rights campaigns group, Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK) in association with The African Caribbean Community Initiative (ACCI) have put on this national event as part of their ongoing work to ensure that this issue becomes a matter of priority for the present Government, the new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and police authorities up and down the country.

 

Data from the Count Me in Census’ reports from 2005 - 2011 show that, of all ethnic groups it is Black Britons who are 50% more likely to be referred to mental health services via the police than their white counterparts. Entry to mental health services via police custody is the norm for many Black Britons.

 

People who use mental health services account for 50% of those who lose their lives in police custody. It is in the area of mental health and policing that many of the most serious causes for concern have arisen over a number of years but continue to remain unaddressed. 

The high profile deaths in police custody cases of Kingsley Burell-Brown, Sean Rigg, Olaseni Lewis, Mikey Powell and Roger Sylvester is further evidence that failures in policing of mental health services users, which is impacting people from Britain’s Black communities in greatest numbers.

 

 

Professionals responsible for running or commissioning mental health services, who attend this conference, will learn first-hand what action needs to be taken to improve the treatment of this patient group.

The directorof Black Mental Health UK, Matilda MacAttram, points out that mental health and policing has been an on-going concern not only for service users and their families but also practitioners, police professionals working with this group for many years.

“This national conference offers the first ever forum for these issues to be discussed in a way that will bring about positive change in an arena of mental health care that has been neglected for far too long,” she said.

Alicia Spence services director at The African Caribbean Community Initiative, argues that statistics show that there is a problem in terms of the disproportionate over  representation of African Caribbean’s in the mental health system, and even more disturbingly that a significant number access mental health services via the police. 

“This is a concern for the community and this sector as a whole,” she said. “When people are going through distress, or having a psychotic episode the police being the first port of call is not good, because it criminalises them and impacts on their recovery.  The experience is traumatic for them, their families and for the community as a whole. It is also an expensive and ineffective way of dealing with people in mental health crisis. This conference is part of the work needed to change this.”

 

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