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Waris Dirie-Wikipedia

By PAUL AMES – 21 hours ago


BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — Police on Friday found Waris Dirie, three days after the Somali-born model who launched a worldwide campaign against female genital mutilation had vanished.


Dirie, 43, appeared to be in good health and was being questioned by police about the disappearance, said Estelle Arpigny, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office.


She declined to give further details, saying it was unclear what had happened since Dirie vanished early Wednesday. Belgian media reports said police found her Friday afternoon walking the Brussels' Grand Place square.


Hours earlier, police had announced they were launching a nationwide search for the former model, who had last been seen getting into a cab after a mix-up over a hotel.


Dirie gained international fame as a model posing in Chanel ads and acting in the 1987 James Bond movie "The Living Daylights" before launching her campaign against female genital mutilation in 1996.


She shocked the world with a best-selling book "Desert Flower" that described how her genitals were sliced off with a dirty razor blade without anesthesia, and then stitched together.


Now a U.N. goodwill ambassador, she was due to speak on genital mutilation in Brussels at two conferences on women's rights organized by the European Union, including one on Thursday attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


News of Dirie's disappearance came a week after French police said they had found the body of another former model of African origin who had campaigned against female genital mutilation. Guinean-born Katoucha Niane was discovered floating in the River Seine in Paris.


The French police said an autopsy showed no signs of foul play, raising the possibility that she 

may have fallen accidentally into the river. However, Katoucha's family members say they suspect homicide.


Dirie's manager, Walter Lutschinger, said she had been involved in an altercation in a hotel reception area after a taxi driver took her to the wrong branch of the Sofitel hotel chain. The police were called and drove Dirie around Brussels looking for the correct hotel because she had apparently forgotten where she was staying.


At one hotel, while staff and police were checking for her name on a computer, Meilleur said Dirie stepped out saying she planned to buy cigarettes from an all-night kiosk, but instead climbed into a taxi and drove away.


An Austrian citizen, Dirie was attacked in her Vienna apartment in 2004 by a Portuguese handyman who had stalked her. The man was given a five-month suspended sentence by an Austrian court.


Associated Press writers Constant Brand and Aoife White in Brussels and George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.

On the Net:

Stop this ritual abuse nightmare

By Carl Brown


Thursday 12th July 2007

MORE than 1,000 women and girls in Waltham Forest are likely to have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM).


This information emerged as the Metropolitan Police launched Project Azure on Tuesday, offering a £20,000 reward for information that leads to the UK's first ever prosecution for Female Genital Mutilation, a dangerous form of child abuse (see page 2).


Sometimes misleadingly called female circumcision, it leaves a woman in physical pain and emotionally scarred for life.


Some girls die from haemorrhage, infection or shock after Female Genital Mutilation has been carried out.


One of the speakers at the launch was specialist nurse Jennifer Bourne from the African Well Women's Clinic, based at the Community Health Centre, in Kirkdale Road, Leytonstone, and run by Waltham Forest Primary Care Trust.


The service offers black women advice and support on health issues.


Ms Bourne said: "Many people are affected by Female Genital Mutilation in our borough. We need to look at the funding going into services to tackle it.


"The mental health implications should not be under-estimated and many women who come to our service have long term complications such urinary problems, menstrual problems and trouble having children.


"I am really excited the police have got this together today. The profile has been raised."


In some African countries more than 90 per cent of the female population have suffered.


Ms Bourne said:"The last census showed that there were more than 1,000 young girls in the borough of black African origin from Nigeria, Ghana, Somalia and Kenya. These countries practise Female Genital Mutilation.


"Young women have come to us in the past and also said that Female Genital Mutilation is happening in Waltham Forest, but because it is hidden it is difficult to know whether this is still the case."


Ms Bourne said she has been aware of victims of Female Genital Mutilation as young as seven days old.


She said that many young girls do not realise what is going to happen to them and are merely aware that they are going for a "special celebration."


But she said: "Through the work we do there has been a change within the communities, there is beginning to be a shift in thinking.


"Many women saying they won't have it done to their daughters. It is changing, but it is still going on."


Leyla Hussein, a youth outreach worker at the African Well Women's Clinical Centre, said: "Some young people actually ask their parents to have Female Genital Mutilation done, but they didn't know what it is.


"They fear they will be isolated and considered dirty and nobody will marry them if they don't have it done."


l For information about the African Well Women's Clinic call 8928 2244.


POLICE are offering a £20,000 reward for information that leads to the UK's first ever prosecution for female genital mutilation.


On Tuesday the Met announced a new clampdown called Project Azure, which aims to combat 

Female Genital Mutilation perpetrators operating in the UK and people who take their victims abroad.


Female Genital Mutilation is believed to affect about 60,000 women and girls in the UK, and is prevalent in boroughs with higher proportions of African immigrants, such as Waltham Forest.


The launch featured four speakers, including Waltham Forest Primary Care Trust's Female Genital Mutilation specialist nurse Jennifer Bourne.


The head of the Met's child abuse investigation team, Det Chief Supt Alistair Jeffrey, said the project was being set up now to co-incide with the start of the summer, a time when some young girls and children are taken abroad for Female Genital Mutilation.


Det Chief Supt Jeffrey said: "It is child abuse, pure and simply, it is happening in London and we want to stop this.


"We want to get this message across now and prevent children being subjected to these attacks.


"This is not an attack on somebody's culture, it is an attack on those that abuse children."


It is illegal in the UK to carry out Female Genital Mutilation, or to send children abroad to have the procedure carried out and is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.


* People with information about Female Genital Mutilation should call police on 7230 8392 or Crimestoppers anonymously 0800 555 111.


FEMALE Genital Mutilation, also known as circumcision, involves girls of all ages, including children, having their genitalia removed.


The procedures are usually carried for cultural or religious reasons and can range from injury to the clitoris to complete removal of the labia and clitoris, which is then sewn up leaving only a tiny opening.


Parents usually send their children abroad for Female Genital Mutilation and it is often carried out in unsanitary conditions, without an anaesthetic and using instruments such as tin lids or razors.


The practice is widespread in 28 African countries and a handful of Middle Eastern nations and there is evidence that it is happening in London.


Female Genital Mutilation often leads to long term medical problems, including urinary and menstrual problems, severe infection and infertility.


It can have long term mental health implications, including flashbacks. Met child abuse 

investigator Det Insp Carol Hamilton said: "We cannot stand by still while our girls are being taken to foreign countries and mutilated in this way.


"It is totally unnecessary. There is nothing in the Bible or the Koran that mentions Female Genital Mutilation.


"We all accept and embrace cultures and customs in different communities, but cultural acceptance does not include accepting the unacceptable."

Monday 2nd July 2007

Human rights campaigners pin hopes on Lords to change racist Mental Health Bill

The hugely unpopular 2006 Mental Health Bill will be debated in the House of Lords this week with many of the major concerns of race equality campaigners still unresolved.

The Christian message is one of love but it’s also message of truth we have to make it clear that the Bill as drafted will be discriminatory unless CTO are removed.


Pastor Ade Omooba co- Coherent and Cohesive voice

Black Mental Health UK's, 11th hour meeting with Lord Hunt, church leaders and the Department of health officials late last week highlighted key concerns that if not addressed will lead to mental health laws that will wreak havoc in the Black communities, human rights groups have warned.


Plans to push ahead with the hugely controversial community treatment orders, which an independent study commissioned by the Government concluded do not positively assist patient’s recovery or reduce the risk to the public, have bolstered the consensus amongst human rights and church leaders these plans will lead to countless black people being made prisoners within their own homes. Calls are growing to see them ditched from the Bill in spite of the Department of Health assurances that they will not worsen the virulent racism within mental health services.

The discrimination principles do not go far enough there needs to be something on the face of the Bill which mentions race because unless it is mentioned it does not get the prominence it requires especially in it light of the routine discrimination black patients who come in contact with the services face.


Professor Suman Fernando

‘ The reality on the ground does not always match up to what the government says and years down the line the reality is often very different for us’ Pastor Ade Omooba co-founder of the Christian think tank Coherent and Cohesive voice said. ‘The Christian message is one of love but it’s also message of truth we have to make it clear that the Bill as drafted will be discriminatory unless CTO are removed’.


Despite efforts to sideline health experts concerns over these plans, when they warned the government nine months ago that CTO are discriminatory, these fears were confirmed in a highly publicised letter from the Commission for Racial Equality to Health Minister Rosie Winterton stating that forced community treatment along with widening definition of mental illness fly in the face of race relations law.


‘We stated from the outset that CTOs have no place in mental health legislation and cannot afford to move from this position given the extensive body of evidence that confirms that huge numbers of people from our community are routinely misdiagnosed, over medicated, forcibly restrained and placed in seclusion under the current Act, ’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.


While amendments made to the Bill in the House of Commons have been welcomed experts are clear that further changes need to be made if the virulent racism within the service which has led the over representation of Black people within mental health service is to be addressed.


‘There is a need to have exclusions to the definition of mental illness for religious, political and cultural beliefs in the wording of the Bill’, professor Suman Fernando said. While welcoming the amendments made in the House of Commons last month, he said that they do not go far enough and will in no way address the widespread discrimination within mental health services, which has led to detention rates from people from African Caribbean communities soar. ‘The discrimination principles do not go far enough there needs to be something on the face of the Bill which mentions race because unless it is mentioned it does not get the prominence it requires especially in it light of the routine discrimination black patients who come in contact with the services face.’


Relentless campaigning and support from Shadow Health Minister Tim Lawton and Liberal Democrat Policy Lead Sandra Gidley, have led to a number of amendments to the Bill when it was debated in the House of Commons last month including the right to advocacy. While welcomed from many quarters, church leaders have warned that unless there is the legal right to an independent advocated trained in cultural competence before detention it will make little difference to widespread discrimination black patients have had to suffer under the 1983 Mental Health Act.


‘It is helpful to know that the Government are clear that we are calling for the legal right to an advocate before detention’ Pastor Ade Omooba commented after the meeting with Lord Hunt last week,


Along with other church leaders is keen to see a downturn in the figures that show that under current mental health laws people from African Caribbean people are 44% more likely to be detained that a British white person despite having similar rates of mental ill health.


‘It’s much more important to have an advocate before sectioning’, professor Fernando agreed.


‘There is too much sectioning and black people get labelled to quickly. Once you’re put on a section it’s very difficult to get out of it, the main thing is no not to avoid getting help but to avoid getting into the psychiatric system as it is often an impediment to getting help, so sectioning must be avoided. The statutory right to and advocate at the point of being considered for sectioning would address this,’ professor Suman Fernando added.


‘The Bill is currently drafted it will stop people from approaching the services. The failings of mental health services are well known in our communities. There is a needs for statutory measure to ensure the right assistance is available before or when sectioning is being considered. The statutory right to advocacy would address this.’ Pastor Desmond Hall chair of Christians Together in Brent said.

With just one day of debate of the 2006 Mental Health Bill in the House of Lords today Black Mental Health UK are keen to see the following areas of this legislation resolved.

Black Mental Health UK are calling for:

  • A set of race equality principles on the face of the 2006 Mental Health Bill
  • A statutory right to advocacy before detention
  • The removal of community treatment orders from the 2006 Mental Health Blll
  • Clear exclusions on the definition of mental illness so that no one can be detained on the basis of their political, cultural or religious beliefs.

Psychiatrist snubs OBE in mental health protest

Adam James


Thursday May 17, 2007


SocietyGuardian.co.uk

An eminent psychiatrist says he has turned down an OBE in protest at the government's "deeply flawed" plans to extend compulsory powers of detention over the mentally ill.


Dr Suman Fernando was told last week by Downing Street that he had been nominated for the honour for his "services to black and minority ethnic mental healthcare".


But he has publicly rejected the award, accusing NHS mental health services of being institutionally racist.


He fears that changes proposed in the mental heath bill going through parliament will fail to address the disproportionate rate at which black people are admitted to and detained in psychiatric hospitals.

The government says its bill strikes a suitable balance between patient rights and protecting the public from dangerous people with a mental illness.


But Dr Fernando said the bill, which could give doctors further powers to compulsory detain patients, would exacerbate the discrimination against black and ethnic minority people.


He wrote this week in a letter to the departing prime minister, Tony Blair, that he "cannot possibly accept it [the OBE] while the government is pursuing its present policy regarding mental health legislation... the government bill currently before parliament is deeply flawed."


He added: "What seems most strange is that the government say they want to recognise my services to black and minority healthcare at a time when they are trying to push through legislation that would make things worse for black people caught up in the mental health system."


Dr Fernando believes that "at the very least" the bill should have a set of principles written into it to ensure that anti-discriminatory mental health practice is legally binding.


The health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, has rejected this, but said such principles could be included in a code of practice.


Dr Fernando, a psychiatrist with 23 years' experience and now visiting professor in applied social sciences at London Metropolitan University, is also angry that ministers "have not taken any notice" of a raft of other concerns aired by himself and other mental health professionals during a series of consultations over the bill.


"My plea to government is to withdraw the bill as it stands today and get back into a consultation mode," Fernando wrote in his rejection letter, which he has also sent to the prime minister-in-waiting, Gordon Brown.


Dr Fernando worked as an NHS psychiatrist from 1970 to 1993, and has held a string of clinical and academic posts specialising in race and mental health. From 1994 to 2001 he was vice chair of the Transcultural Psychiatry Special Interest group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and from 1989 to 1991 he served as a British representative on the World Psychiatric Association's executive committee of transcultural psychiatry.


It is convention that those rejecting honours should do so privately. But Dr Fernando follows in the footsteps of poet Benjamin Zephaniah, who in 2003 openly dismissed his award as a legacy of colonialism.


A Downing Street spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny whether Dr Fernando had been nominated for an OBE, and was unable to add any further comments.

This article has been sent by BLINK (Black Information Link), website of the 1990 Trust.

Health body says "black people are naturally mad"

=======================================================

RACE EXPERTS hit the roof after an institution claimed figures showing Black people 18 times more likely to be mentally ill was an "under-estimate".

=======================================================

Dr Shibalade Smith

Dr Shibalade Smith: blamed cannabis not racism for massive disproportionality in system.

Mental health professionals are outraged after the Institute of Psychiatry concluded there was no evidence of racism.

A report by the body claimed Africans and Caribbeans suffer from even higher rates of schizophrenia than statistics suggest.

Lee Jasper, chair of the African Caribbean Mental Health Commission, rejected the findings. 'We are seeing racism on an industrial scale in the mental health service.


'When you look at the staggering disproportionality of representation within the service then I think there is no other credible explanation to this problem than institutional racism.'

denial

Professor Robin Murray from the Institute of Psychiatry has denied existence of racism in mental health for many years. Now he has released a report that fits his predetermined position.

Prof Murray's views have been regarded as controversial, but now he has gained support from Black and Asian professionals who are joining him in denying racism.


Dr Shibalade Smith, who works in the Maudsley hospital, and Professor Swaran Singh both back Prof Murray.

Prof Swaran Singh




Prof Swaran Singh: 'We need to move away from the blame game.'

Their opinions are at odds with official figures that show police twice as likely to refer African Caribbeans to the mental health system.


African and Caribbean groups were also up to 70% less likely to be referred for counseling by their GP, and 14% more likely to be turned away than white people when they ask for help from Mental Health services.


The Count Me In study last year also found that 88% of Black respondents had been forcibly restrained as opposed to 43% of white respondents.

troubled

Despite these figures, the Institute of Psychiatry ruled out racism as a cause, and instead blamed absent fathers, cannabis use and a traumatic upbringing - all factors which they say disproportionately affect Black communities.

Prof Murray said that psychiatrists were less likely to diagnose Black people with mental illness because they were afraid of being branded "racist".


He also alleged that dangerous psychopaths like Christopher Clunis who killed Jayne Zito in 1992 - were being released into the community because health professionals wanted to reduce the numbers of Black patients. 

He said: 'Psychiatrists are less likely to diagnose psychosis in somebody who is Black than white with the same symptoms.'


He said the causes of mental illness were "unemployment, living in the city, [being] separated from parents", and believes migrant communities are naturally more prone to mental illness.


Dr Smith, whose patients are 77% Black, said she believed the causes were "poor schooling, troubled childhood [and] cannabis."


She said: 'There is no evidence Black patients are likely to get more medication. In fact you are twice as likely to get ECT [electric shock treatment] if you are white than if you are black.'


The Institute of Psychiatry base their findings on a series of "blind" tests where they presented images and imaginary case histories of black and white patients and asked professionals to make a diagnosis.


The findings are a major departure from thirty years of research which suggests that racial prejudices determine how professionals treat Black people with suspected mental disorders.


In 2004 a public inquiry led by former high court judge Sir John Blofeld found that David 'Rocky' Bennett had died of restraint in a psychiatric unit because of institutional racism.


BBC Newsnights' Mark Easton publicised the Institute of Psychiatry research earlier this week but failed to offer any critical analysis of the study, accepting the results on face value.


Tell us what you think. Email: [email protected]

Redrafting of Mental Health Act could be bad news for black communities

The choice of mental health as the theme for this year’s National Men’s Health Week, could not be more timely as it takes place amid a furore over the government’s overhaul of the 1983 Mental Health Act. With events planned throughout this week culminating in a national annual conference, entitled:Mind Your Head at Wembley Arena today, race equality and health campaigners are keen to see the crisis in black mental health and concerns over the redrafting of the Mental Health Act ,take centre stage.


This legislation is undeniably the bedrock on which all mental health care is based. Since 1983 there have been countless studies looking into the reasons behind the adverse treatment and high detention rates of black people in psychiatric care. Findings from Count Me In, a report published last year on the first national census of mental health hospitals, confirmed black health experts’ worst fears. The report revealed unprecedented levels of racism within the services which effectively criminalise rather than care for the black community.


It is no secret that a generation of black people have been lost in the pernicious grip of psychiatric services. African and African Caribbean people make up 16 per cent of people in high secure detention and 30 per cent in medium risk detention centres despite constituting less than 3 per cent of the national population. Pathways into care are also more traumatic, census findings indicate that black people are twice as likely to be referred to psychiatric services via the police or judicial system and are up to 44 per cent more likely to be detained under the 1983 Mental Health Act.

Psychiatrist professor Suman Fernando in his book: Cultural Diversity, Mental Health and Psychiatry: The Struggle Against Racism, says the combination of psychiatric power and race is potentially lethal for ethnic minorities. The number of black people who have died while in psychiatric care confirms that this is no understatement.


The national media coverage of the Government Inquiry into the death of David Bennett and subsequent Inquiry Report published in 2004, brought the crisis in black mental health to the nation’s attention. Commonly referred to as the Stephen Lawrence of the mental health world, Bennett’s treatment and care typifies the black experience within mental health services.


Thirty eight year old Bennett was a patient at the Norvic clinic in Norwich. On the night of his death he was racially abused by another patient after a dispute over the hospital telephone. The situation deteriorated and culminated in Bennett being forcibly restrained by five nurses for almost half an hour. The team restraining him only released him once they realised he had stopped breathing. No attempt was made to resuscitate him.


Two years after the publication of the Bennett Inquiry report, theCount Me In census findings show that black individuals are 29 per cent more likely to be forcibly restrained and 50 per cent more likely to be placed in seclusion than white British people, despite similar rates of mental ill health. These disturbing figures mean it is imperative that amendments to the 1983 Act are drafted in such a way that there is a reduction in the adverse effect this law has on black people. The government’s decision to exclude race from the seven policy areas of reform of the 1983 Act, calls into question any serious commitment they have to addressing racism within the service.

Government must be taken to task over treatment of black people in mental health services

Redrafting of the 1983 Act presents an ideal opportunity to ensure that the racial inequalities in the quality of care and mental health services are improved, by enshrining these requirements in law. Without such measures there can be no assurances that discrimination will be addressed.


The recent Department of Health’s consultations with the black community over the redrafting of the Act have been steeped in contention and slammed as a farce by health experts. The hastily arranged consultations which concluded last Friday were boycotted by the BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) Network after the Department of Health reneged on agreements for their full and proper involvement. Parallels in its treatment of black mental health professionals and black service users over this issue cannot be ignored.


Comment’s by the Mental Health Tzar, Louis Appleby in last week’s Community Care Magazine that a full REIA should not be allowed to slow down amendments to the 1983 Act confirm health campaigners fears that race and the concerns of the black community have been sidelined.


Mind Your Head the National Men’s Health Week conference brochure quotes Peter Baker, chief executive of the Men’s Health Forum as saying that over 50 per cent of men feel stressed or experience anxiety or depression at least once a month. This comes as stop and searches amongst black men are six times higher than for white men and school exclusions for African Caribbean children fifteen times higher than for white children in some London boroughs. It therefore stands to reason that men and boys within black British communities are subject to a disproportionate amount of stress which cannot be conducive to their mental health and wellbeing.


Baker also points out that men are less likely to seek help than women in such cases. Findings from the Count Me In census reveal that black people are 14 per cent more likely to be turned away than white people when they ask for help from mental health services and in many cases untreated conditions often result in more drastic interventions later on.


An All Party Parliamentary Group on Men’s Health is due to meet at the House of Common’s on June 13 to look at conditions for ensuring that people have the maximum chance of feeling mentally well. It is critical that the experience of black men is brought to this discussion if they are to be considered representative of the communities most adversely affected by this issue.


With the government effectively sidelining race in the redrafting of the Mental Heath Act, the Men’s Health Forum is ideally placed to take up the issue of discrimination within mental health services and to take Health Minister Rosie Winterton to task when she attends the national conference on Wednesday.


ABOUT THE WRITER


Matilda MacAttram is an independent race relations health consultant and a specialist in black mental health care issues.

Unpaid help covering up poor service

With people from African and African Caribbean backgrounds making up almost 10 per cent of the population on in-patient psychiatric wards despite being only three percent of the population, health experts are under no illusion that there is a crisis in black mental health. The largely unnoticed work of BMCs (Black Majority Churches) on psychiatric wards could, if properly funded, offer a breakthrough.


While there are no official records to indicate how long BMCs have been working with statutory services, it is increasingly apparent that this unpaid source of culturally appropriate support, is effectively plugging a critical care gap in failing mental health services.


Medication is still the primary option offered to black patients. The recently published ‘Count-Me- In’ census has confirmed the worst fears of health campaigners by revealing that black patients are more likely than any other ethnic group to be detained on medium and high secure psychiatric wards.


They are more likely to receive coercive treatment on wards with high occupancy rates where inadequate staffing is the norm. Counselling, talking therapies and prayer offered by BMCs is primarily the only alternative source of care to this group.

“Faith in God is almost the norm within the black community particularly in London,” Rev Paul Grey, consultant at the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, told Black Britain. He added: “For many people their faith determines how they govern their lives and so it isn’t possible to communicate in any meaningful way without factoring this in, God goes to the very core of who they are.”

Initial findings from the from the ‘English Church Census’, a large scale survey undertaken by the Independent Christian Research Organisation indicate that 75% of black people in the UK attend church on an regular basis compared to 5% of white British people. These figures make it clear that mental health services need to work with BMCs to stem the rising tide of the sectioning of black people.


Matthew Ashimolowo, is pastor of the Kingsway International Christian Centre in Hackney, the largest church in Europe. He has spoken out publicly about the crisis in BME mental health and is aware a significant proportion of his 12,000 strong congregation who attend his church in East London every Sunday will be affected by this issue.

In the past Ashimolowo said: “The Government should engage with black communities and support initiatives that help to improve the lives and mental health of black people. The Church is one of the greatest sources of strength within the black community, yet there has been no cogent attempt to work with us.”

There have been a number of studies in this area - as early as 1999, the government- funded Health Education Authority published a report: The Courage to Bare our Souls. This study concluded that spiritual belief can play a significant role in protecting people from mental health problems and called for health professionals not to dismiss people’s religious convictions as part of their illness.

How prayer helps those with mental health problems

Dr Oyepeju Raji is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatry’s Special Interest Group on Spirituality. In a research paper entitled Prayer and Medicine, a Healthy Alliance? she writes: “Afro-Caribbean Christians demonstrated the highest levels of confidence that prayer works.” The paper also goes on to say that faith and prayer were identified as frequent and favoured coping strategies among patients and carers but people are not always prepared to share their spirituality with others for fear of being labelled as mentally ill:


“At the moment there is a lot of spiritual abuse of those in the system because of the lack of understanding and acknowledgement of the significance of this in many people’s lives,’ David Robertson, Chair of Brent Black African and Caribbean Mental Health Consortium said. Robertson added:


“Faith is just one part of the picture, but for people who believe, it is an important part of who they are and it does them a disservice to dismiss this.”


Desmond Hall, Chair of Christian Together in Brent and Pastor at the Pentecostal City Mission in East Acton, West London told Black Britain that the churches’ presence in the wards have shortened the recovery rate of patients.


Hall, along with leaders of other BMCs in Brent was approached by Middlesex Hospital for volunteers to befriend and counsel in-patients in their psychiatric wards. He said:

“The hospital is situated in one of the most diverse boroughs in London and the patients are, for the most part, from African Caribbean backgrounds and so we believe it is a positive thing that they saw the role Churches have to play. It is after all what we do, care for the sick and needy.”


Hall has seen first hand the benefit their presence has made to patients in the way that they are able to share their concerns with people they see as neutral. He told Black Britain: “There is a need for them to talk and just have someone listen to them… the element of God helps people to relate and we find after the short services we hold people stream out so many of their concerns over tea and biscuits.”


Hall has found that the continuing care BMCs provide once people have left hospital is as important as showing compassion for people when they are on the hospital ward. He said: “It is important that contact with those whom we have helped recover does not abruptly end, so we continue to support people and provide social care, if needed, once people leave hospital.”

People in a distressed state usually turn to God

People in a distressed state usually turn to God But there are concerns from some quarters that BMCs may see this work as an opportunity to increase their congregations. However, Robertson is adamant: “This is about promoting recovery and reintegration into wider society and encouraging people to achieve their full potential and regain control of their lives, as opposed to controlling symptology. The goal is affirmation not proselytising. It is merely stating we care.”

There are also those who find comfort in having their faith confirmed in what many consider to be a very distressing environment: “Many people ask for prayer even when in a distressed state,” Hall told Mental Health Today.

“Middlesex Hospital has taken on the work we do as part of the healing process rather than relying on solely on pumping people full of drugs which has a negative effect on them. When we visit, people come to us especially so that we can pray with them and afterwards they are thankful. People need to know that there is a hope that they can cling to and prayer is a powerful thing to hold onto – we all need that help to make it through.”

Despite the beneficial work of the BMCs, there are concerns about the possible abuse of the vulnerable and the practice of driving out evil spirits that has hit the headlines in recent years.

Rev Grey told Black Britain: “The media pick up on issues like this and it is used to attack the church as a whole, but there is no understanding of the work that they are actually doing. It is the easiest thing in the world to attack something you don’t understand.”


Rev Arlington Trotman is responsible for the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe at Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. He told Black Britain: “We see many people spending their time and energy on this much needed work that is not properly resourced, which is very bad practice considering the importance of what is being done here. If the Department of Health could recognise this movement it would be of great help.”

ABOUT THE WRITER

Matilda MacAttram is an independent race relations health consultant and a specialist in black mental health care issues.

David "Rocky" Bennett

'A nuisance who had to be contained'

The government has published its response to the inquiry into the death of David "Rocky" Bennett at a secure mental health unit in Norfolk in 1998.


The inquiry said there was "institutional racism" in NHS mental health services.


The government has now pledged to address the inequalities black and ethic minorities have faced in the provision of mental health care.


For 18 years David Bennett, Rocky to family and friends, was in and out of hospitals with mental health problems.


During the last years of his life he was at the Norvic Clinic in Norwich.


'Unfairly punished'

On the night he died, according to a draft copy of the report seen by the BBC at the time, Mr Bennett had been racially abused by another patient after a heated argument.


He was ordered to another ward while nothing happened to the man who abused him.

The subsequent independent inquiry into his death heard that Mr Bennett felt he was being unfairly punished.


Mr Bennett then attacked and seriously injured a nurse.


Between four and five nursing staff restrained him face down, sitting on his legs and across his upper torso for almost 25 minutes.


His family was informed of his death by the police the following morning.


His sister Joanna Bennett says she was told by the Norvic Clinic that her brother had developed breathing problems in the night and that he had been sent to the A&E department where he had subsequently died.


She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme at the time: "When I rang the A&E department the staff nurse said to me 'did you realise that there's been a violent incident'?

"That was the first time I realised that Rocky had not just died from a breathing problem that, in fact, he had been restrained by nurses.


Dr Bennett says her brother was treated as a "lesser being" on the night he died.


'No record'


The BBC has obtained a copy of the draft report of the eventual inquiry into Mr Bennett's death.

It confirms his sister's assertion that there was no record of any action taken as a result of either the assault, or racial abuse, against her brother.

It is scathing of Mr Bennett's treatment as a black man with more than 18 years in the mental health service.


The report says that at times Mr Bennett was treated "as if he was a nuisance who had to be contained."


Nursing staff at the Norvic clinic were criticised for not having someone at Mr Bennett's head as he was being restrained.

The report goes on: "If that had been done we consider that signs of distress would have been detected earlier than they were and that there was a real possibility that this death might never have occurred.


"There is no evidence of deliberate misbehaviour by any of the nurses involved."

'Lesser being'

The report says "the issue of race was not taken into account" when the decision to move Mr Bennett to another ward was taken.


It continues: "We form the strong impression that on that evening David Bennett was not treated by nurses as if he was capable of being talked to like a rational human being but was treated as if he was a lesser being, to use Dr Bennett's phrase."


Following the publication of the full report, Norfolk Mental Health Care NHS Trust apologised to Mr Bennett's family and friends, adding that it had "not forgotten that this was a tragedy that happened to a real person".