Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
Human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK) will be at the 14thSession of the United Nations Working of Experts on People of African Descent (UN WGPAD) this week, to bring to their attention urgent need to address the continuing highly coercive treatment of black people in Britain who come in contact with mental health services. The organisation will raise concern over the numbers of physically healthy men who lose their lives in this and other custodial settings.
Scheduled to take place at the Palais Des Nations in Geneva from Monday until this Friday, April 4, this year’s thematic discussion is on Access to Justice.
An extensive body of data shows that Black Britons continue to be over represented among those who are subject to forced detention under the UK Mental Health Act, even though this group do not have a higher prevalence of mental illness than their white counterparts.
Once in this system, Black people are more likely to be misdiagnosed, subject to control and restraint, forcibly medicated with high doses of antipsychotic drugs and placed in seclusion.
It has been known for a number of years that the Black patients experience of mental health services in the UK is typified by compulsion and coercion, rather than compassion and care; however a recent spate of high profile deaths of Black men, while in this system has brought to light a more disturbing the practice of staff at some mental health trust’s calling armoured police officers often with riot shields, batons, Tasers and dogs onto hospital wards to restrain vulnerable patients in crisis.
The disturbing new practice of night time confinement, locking people in their rooms at night in the most high secure hospitals where patients needs are greatest; and the imposition other blanket restriction that breach ‘least restrictive principle’ set out in the code of practice of the Mental Health Act, also raises serious human rights concerns.
Also the ongoing lack of access to independent advocates, for significant numbers of black people who are detained under the Mental Health Act, has left many from this community unaware, for years in some cases, of their legal rights while detained in this system.
This year’s theme of the UN WGPAD on Access to Justice will be used by BMH UK to raise this and many other long standing issues affecting black Britain in an international human rights arena in a bid to see these injustices addressed.
Matilda MacAttram, director of BMH UK and fellow of the UN WGPAD said: “The United Kingdom is recognised as having one of the best human rights records in the world; it is one of the nations that has signed the largest number of UN treaties and yet the most marginalised groups, such as people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities detained under the Mental Health Act face some of the most serious human rights abuses, particularly when it comes to the issue of deaths in custody.
The protections afforded under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other agreements that the UK has signed up to including Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) need to be made a reality for the communities that BMH UK has been set up to serve, if the UK’s commitment to upholding this groups human rights are not to be questioned.”