BMH UK Conference 2013

In June 2013, Black Mental Health UK hosted a national conference in Wolverhampton hearing from an impressively significant cast of speakers.  This kind of event was long overdue.

Alongside the BMH Director Matilda MacATTRAM and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob JONES, delegates also heard from Minister of State for mental health, Norman LAMB; MP Charles WALKER who made such a valuable contribution to last year’s House of Commons debate on mental health, Chair of the Care Quality Commissioner, David PRIOR and then from Commander Christine JONES, the mental health lead from the Metropolitan Police.

Videos have started to emerge from this on YouTube and I wanted to post these highlights from Commander JONES’s talk –

She absolutely hits the nail on the head for me when she talks about the most important thing for police officers to work on – at all levels – is how we build adequate insight into and responses to the difference between fear and anger: something on which we need to build understanding.

You also need to watch this 20 minute summary video of the whole event –

IMG_0053IMG_0052Winner of the President’s Medal from
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award.



3 thoughts on “BMH UK Conference 2013

  1. I watched this twice to try to get a sense of how participants thought the discrimination works. On the one hand it could be that society discriminates against the black community and this pressure leads to alienation and mental illness.(I understand that & think it a likely major factor) But Matilda Macattram said that there were not higher rates of mentally ill amongst the black community just higher rates of detention. Is the suggestion then that Assessers are falsely assessing black people as unwell ? (or maybe i’m not understanding )
    Anyway I am looking at the figures for admissions under the Mental Health Act for Camden and Islington in the Mental Health Law Annual Report 2012/13. These show that although Black or Black British are 10% of the Camden and Islington population they are 20% of admissions. Asians or Asian British are 8% of the C&I population but 5% of the hospital admissions. I am probably missing something ( i’m a white decorator) but would one not expect the Asian rate of admission to be higher if the admissions system itself was discriminating, given the increase in discrimination against Asians in this century ? (The C&I figures reflect national trends)

    1. I’ll hazard a guess at some answers, from my layperson perspective (though I have experienced the MH system both for myself and close friend).

      It is the ‘Crisis Team’ (or similar) who gatekeep psychiatric admissions. Crisis Teams exist to try and keep people out of hospital by providing an alternative (in theory). So one thing they look at is how much family support etc the individual has. In my experience, this often translates into them trying to find someone, anyone, who will take responsibilty for ‘watching over’ the ill individual even if they really should be admitted. It is incredibly difficult as a close friend/family member to say that you are unwilling to do this, as obviously you care about the individual concerned, hence being there with them in the hospital/as they are assessed. Anyway, with the stronger emphasis on family in Asian cultures, and the greater likelihood to be living in a larger family group/with family close by, I would think that it is more likely an alternative to admission would be found. In addition, I believe there’s been evidence to suggest that mental ill-health is underreported in Asian communities.

      Up until the point of admission/potential admission, the discrimination may be equal. Perhaps more BME individuals end up at this stage due to being unable to access services before their condition deteriorates, for example.
      Also, we are working on the assumption that being detained under the MH Act is a bad thing. I believe that any police detention where mental health treatment is needed is not helpful (and why is it reaching this stage?) However, detention under a hospital section may be preferable to the alternatives – suicide, further deterioration, putting themselves in danger, etc. Bearing in mind the sparse ‘care in the community’ and the shortage of inpatient beds, a hospital section might be the only way to guarantee the care the individual needs (not that all hospitals provide it, but still).

      I wonder if the discrimination is actually more complex – mental health professionals might be more likely to see the behaviour of BME individuals in pathological terms rather than being a person in distress. The different diagnoses allocated may be evidence of this (eg. black people are more likely to be diagnosed schizophrenic). These diagnoses then affect likelihood of admission during future crises. But that’s not to say that their white counterpart with a different label doesn’t need hospital admission too!
      Also, there may be reverse discrimination at play where professionals are ‘covering their backs’ due to a greater fear of litigation/implications for neglecting a BME individual over a white individual, as institutional racism is a headline-grabber and also I believe monitored in organisations like the NHS.

      Above all, it’s important to remember that MH services are often dire for white people too. All the aspects they mentioned in the video, I was nodding along too – and I’m white and female. Although focussing on those disproportionately affected may help to uncover where the problems lie, let us not forget the situation needs improving for all who are suffering.

  2. The fear vs anger thing is spot on. My entire criminal record is based on this combined with serious failings in MH and other services.

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