National concern for black Briton
Health campaigners, senior politicians from the community and leaders of some of the UK's largest black led churches have come out in support of human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK's new campaign against black deaths in custody.
This has been launched in a bid to bring an end to the over use of force and coercive practices that have resulted in a long line of fatalities that continue to hit Briton's black communities hardest.
'The issue of deaths in custody is one of national concern for Briton's black communities. Too many voiceless people from our community have lost their lives while in the care of mental health services, but despite public statements by health providers of a commitment to change it has never resulted in an improvement in the way people are treated.
We are running this campaign as BMH UK want to see a transformative change in this area so people in need of mental health care from our community are not left fearing for their lives,' Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health said.
Lord Herman Ouseley has thrown his weight behind this campaign by committing to raising the issues in this peition in the House of Lords.
'The issue of deaths in custody has been one of major concern, particularly for Brition's African Caribbean communities for a number of years now. I welcome BMH UK's new campaign as it is critically important that we do everything we can to make the government aware of the urgent reforms that need to be made particularly in relation to deaths in mental health settings. I will be raising this issue in the Lords as part of my ongoing support for this work,' Lord Ouseley former chair of the Commission for Race Equality said.
Adding his support this to campaign Pastor Desmond Hall chair of Christians Together in Brent said: 'deaths in custody is a concern at the heart of the church, and we are becoming more and more aware of the treatment of those who are marginalised in society who end up in this system. We are backing this petition, there needs to change so vulnerable people in mental healthcare are properly looked after and not treated harshly.'
Launched this week with an a government e-petition the moves comes as the inquest verdict into the tragic case of Andel Malia, concluded that the physically healthy 24 year-old, who entered mental health services as a voluntary patient, in January this year, but died just a few weeks later was as a result of 'natural causes'.
'The current reality is that there is a disproportionate effect on young black men suffering mental health crisis's dying in suspicious circumstances in the custody of the police or NHS, the case of Jonathan Andel Malia completely underpins the need for laser like scrutiny on this issue.
I would urge that all people of good conscience sign this important petition to help highlight an issue of profound injustice,' Lee Jasper chair of London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium said.
Those detained under the Mental Health Act account for 60% of all deaths in state custody, and of all groups, it is people from the UK's African Caribbean communities that are subject to the most coercive and punitive treatment, often with fatal consequences.
'On a personal level there are people known to our services who have died after they were restrained and died in our local psychiatric services - this kind of thing resonates with us, as we have been on this journey,' Alicia Spence services director of ACCI (The African Caribbean Community Initiative) said.
'This is about services failing to deal with people who are vulnerable in a humane way, that is what led to the death of this individual. One of the hall marks of any civilised society is the care and compassion it shows to its most vulnerable - when people are dying in custody it is not indicative of a caring and compassionate service,' Spence added.
The community are still waiting to find out when the inquests into the case of 29-year-old Kingsley Burrell-Brown, who lost his life while in the care of mental health services in 2011.
Even though the father-of-three had no history of mental illness, he was detained on a ward run by Birmingham and Solihull NHS Trust after he called the police for help when he found himself in unsafe part of Birmingham. Three days later police were called onto the ward by staff at the hospital and restrained Kingsley who died shortly afterwards.
Restrained for 45 minutes
Also the tragic case of Master's graduate, Olaseni Lewis, who lost his life just 24 hours after he was admitted as a voluntary patient at South London and Maudsley NHS Trust in 2010 is a cause of widespread concern. Staff at SALM called officers onto the ward to restrain Lewis who was detained at Bethlem Hospital, and 11 officers restrained the 23-year-old for 45 minutes. He was then rushed to another hospital in a critical condition and placed on a life support machine but never regained consciousness and sadly died days later.
Unlike other custodial settings such as prisons and police custody where a death is referred to an external agency for investigation, all preventable deaths of people detained under the Mental Health Act are investigated by the health provider responsible for running the facility where the fatality has occurred. This raises concerns over the culture of cover-up and lack of accountability in these cases.
Black Mental Health UK's new campaign is calling for:
1. Independent judicial inquiries into all preventable deaths in psychiatric settings and an end to deaths in custody.
2. A government commitment to outlaw use of control and restraint in mental health settings.
3. An independent public inquiry into black deaths in custody
'We hope that the government will be receptive and give serious consideration these reasonable requests,' Bishop Llewellyn Grayham Church of God of Prophesy, is one of the country largest black majority churches said.
'We have an election coming up in a year's time and we need to see what this government will say on these areas and we will alert the black community that depending on who backs these request we will vote accordingly so that we will get the change we need to see in this area,' Llewellyn added.
'Deaths in custody have been going on for a very long time and nothing has really been done. Something has to change, we can't stand on the sidelines and watch this continue to go on, the government has to take responsibility. It is important for the church to stand with campaigners at this time and we wholeheartedly support the calls of BMH UK's campaign and call on people to sign up to this petition,' Archdeacon Deacon Daniel Kajumba chair Archbishops Councils Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns said.
The United Friends and Families Campaign (UFFC) which organise the annual march against deaths in custody have published information to show that there have been 3180 people who have died in custody since 1969, but no one have every been convicted of a death in custody.
BMH UK are urging people to support their call for justice by going online and adding their name to this new petition by clicking on this link here.
Please tweet and facebook this campaign and get your friends to sign it.