Charity releases figures for number of black people who died in psychiatric care

At least 27 black people have died while in psychiatric care
since 1980, and the actual figure is likely to be even higher,
writes Katie Leason.

There is no central record of the total number of black people
who have died while in psychiatric care, and some sources indicate
that there have been at least 10 more since 1998.

Reasons for deaths include a shooting by police, drowning, and
“therapeutic misadventure” after injections were
adminstered in a police van.

The list is attached to the evidence submitted by mental health
charity Mind to an independent panel of inquiry into the death of
David “Rocky” Bennett, a young back man who died in
October 1998 after being restrained, face down, by at least three
mental health nurses at the Norvic Clinic in Norwich.

In its evidence, Mind recommends the setting up of an
independent public inquiry to look at how black and ethnic
minorities are often failed by mental health services. The creation
of a central database is also recommended to record any serious
incidents and deaths in psychiatric care.

This would be monitored by the health service ombudsman,
administered by the Mental Health Act Commission, and would record
details such as ethnic origin, routes into care and an account of
events from the investigation. The health service ombudsman would
be able to recommend action where necessary.

The charity also recommends that institutions should adopt the
definition of racism as stated in the Macpherson inquiry into the
Stephen Lawrence case, as “any incident which is perceived to
be racist by the victim or any other person”. It adds that
anyone subjected to racism should not be penalised for reporting
racist incidents, such as being moved to a separate ward.

In addition, Mind states that the Mental Health Act 1983 should
be amended to stop doses higher than the levels recommended by the
British National Formulary being given without informed consent.
There should also be time limits on high dose therapy, with
physical checks and a full reassessment of treatment after certain
time periods.

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