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Human rights body 'UK need to tackle institutional racism in mental health services'

Wednesday, 16 November 2016


Human rights concerns over racism and discrimination in mental health services

The_Voice_BMH_UK_ECRI_feature_By_MacAttram_16-11-16_FinalCalls made by experts from the European Council's race equality committee in what is likely to be the final country report on the UK's race relations record has flagged up the racism and discrimination faced by black people from the UK's African Caribbean communities that come in contact with these services as an issue of concern.


The international human rights body also makes clear recommendations to the UK Government  'strongly recommending' that the state place a focus on elimination 'racial discrimination in mental health care'.

BMH UK  have chosen to republish a feature on this new report that was first published in The Voice newspaper.




Human rights committee concerned over racism faced by black Britons locked up in mental health hospitals

ECRI_UK_country_report_Oct_2016The Council of Europe's race committee have voiced concerns over the discriminatory and punitive treatment that black people of African descent who are subject by mental health services.

In a report published by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) calls have been made for the UK Government to commit to addressing the racism faced by black people from the UKs African Caribbean communities, from both mental health services and the police.

The 83 page document, which examined the country's human rights record on race relations highlighted a number of concerns including the treatment of black African groups particularly in the area of mental health care among the 23 recommendations that have been made to the British government.

'ECRI is concerned about numerous reports indicating that people from Black African or Caribbean ethnic groups have the highest rate of contact with specialist mental health services,' section 83 of this report says.

This document goes on to detail ECRI's concerns over coercive treatment that black people are subject to when they come contact with statutory mental health services adding: 'Allegations of discrimination by police and by the mental health services in relation to Black people have been made and that high levels of coercion rather than care typify the Black African/Caribbean patient experience.'

Duty to remedy institutional racism

ECRI_BMH_UK_rec_Torn_paper_3This Commission makes clear recommendations to the UK government reminding them of their duty to remedy this type of institutional racism that black people who are living in the UK face on a daily basis and states that: 'ECRI considers that the authorities should look into these allegations and review the treatment of Black African and Caribbean people in the mental health care system.'

The section on mental health and African Caribbean communities is the only place in this 83 page document where the discrimination faced by black people of African descent is highlighted in this country report to the UK.

Earlier this year human rights campaigns group Black Mental Health UK (BMHUK) submitted written evidence ECRI, drafted by their director Matilda MacAttram. BMH UK's eleven page submission covered number of areas where people from the UK's African Caribbean communities continue to face racism and intolerance without any remedy or redress.

Among all of the Government and society agencies that have contributed to this report, BMH UK remains the only agency from Britons black African community that has contributed to this ECRI's review on racism and discrimination in the UK.

BMH UK report only submssion from black led agency

BMH_UK_ECRI_Submission_2016This report cites BMH UK's submission before making recommendations to the UK government stating: ' According to information from the organisation Black Mental Health UK, although the prevalence of mental illness amongst this group is not higher, Black people are 50% more likely to be referred to the psychiatric services via the police than White people,'

ECRI then calls on the UK government to look into and review how statutory mental health services and police services treat black people.

An appendix at the final section of this report details a section inserted at the request of the UK Government entitled: 'UK Government response to the 5th report on the United Kingdom by the European Commission against Racism and intolerance.

While this 25 page section details responses to many recommendations in this race report, it omits any mention of mental health in relation to black people from the UK's African Caribbean communities; It also sidelines the recommendations and concerns raised in section 83 of ECRI's main report on the need to address the institutional racism within the police and mental health services and the discriminatory treatment that black people of African descent are subject to by these services.

Race equality and human rights campaigners are concerned that this omission is an indication of the lack of commitment by the British government to address the racism faced by black people of African descent living in the UK who are forced to come in contact with both the police and mental health services on a daily basis. Many are of the view that it would have been good to have seen some kind of commitment from this government to address this issue before the country exits Europe.

This is the last report that ECRI will make to th UK now that Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that she will trigger Article 50 for Britain to leave the EU in May next year.

This final report to the to the UK from this human rights body of the Council of Europe, and was prepared following ECRI's visit to the United Kingdom in November 2015. The 83 page document takes account of developments between 2009 and 17 March 2016.

By Matilda MacAttram director Black Mental Health UK and Fellow, United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

Copyright © 2016 Matilda MacAttram All rights reserved.

For information on obtaining permission to resue this work email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission, where published the authors byline, biography and copyright notice are retained in their entireity.

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