A number of black church leaders have added their voice to the growing numbers of community leaders who have expressed shock at the rocketing number of deaths in mental health services in the last 12 months, says a London-based human rights campaign group.
Almost a decade after the tragic death of David ‘Rocky’ Bennett, an African Caribbean patient who died in psychiatric care, a new report published by the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody has revealed a three-fold increase in the deaths of patients in mental health settings in the past year.
“Rather than seeing an improvement in the care and treatment of patients detained under the mental health Act, the death toll for people detained in these settings has skyrocketed from 73 in 2005 to over 200 in 2006/07,” Black Mental Health has said.
The campaign group stated: “The deafening silence that has greeted this report has raised concerns among community and church leaders that there is no real concern at the highest levels over the steadily increasing death toll amongst some of society’s most vulnerable people.
“This report comes in wake of changes to mental health legislation which experts fear will make provision of services worse.”
The Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody report also stated that many of these deaths could and should have been prevented.
“It’s tragic to see such a dramatic increase in the deaths of people in a place one would have considered safe. How can anyone have any confidence in these institutions or people’s families trust these services? Whatever reason behind this – it doesn’t look good and something needs to be done about it,” Alicia Spence, Manager of the African Caribbean Community Initiative for mental health care said.
Pastor Desmond Hall, Chair of Christians Together in Brent, said, “This is horrifying and is a bad reflection on mental services’ ability to care for people.”
Pastor Ade Omooba, the co-founder of Christian Concern For Our Nation, added: “One needs to look deeper into this and identify the consistencies in these deaths, then we will be able to establish a common factor and address this.”
Matilda MacAttram Director of Black Mental Health UK concluded: “This is the sort of bad news that will, unfortunately, increase the distrust of the services, but it should not be swept under the carpet.”
She called for further analysis of the report to clarify the circumstances surrounding the deaths and draw up “clear strategies” that could be put in place to prevent further deaths.