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Concern over mental health

CALLS: CEO of social justice charity Nacro, Jacob Tas

A NEW joint briefing from social justice charity, Nacro, the Race Equality Foun- dation, voluntary sector body, Clinks, and the Association of MentalHealth Providers, has found that voluntary sector practitioners and service users from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (BAME) are concerned that too many people from BAME communities with mental health needs are in contact with the criminal justice system.

According to the briefing, justice and mental health service workforces need more training to meet individual needs and avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Existing research highlights that people from BAME communities are 40 per cent more likely than white British people to access mental health services through the criminal justice system, rather than through local health services.

The ‘Race, mental health and criminal justice system’ briefing found that BAME service users believe that not enough is being done to address the disproportionate number of people from BAME communities that access mental health support whilst in contact with the criminal justice system.

It also urges commissioners and providers to work with people that have direct experience, so that health and justice services can be designed to effectively engage people from BAME communities in mental health treatment at the earliest stage.

People from BAME communities are more likely to be arrested, with only 19 white British people out of every 1,000 people being arrested, compared to 56 black people out of every 1,000 people being arrested.

It is also estimated that 39 per cent of people detained in police custody and those serving community sentences have a mental health concern. The joint briefing explored the challenges in providing effective mental health support for people from BAME communities that have contact with the criminal justice system through analysis of existing research, workshops with BAME service users, and voluntary sector practitioners.

Nacro chief executive, Jacob Tas, said: “We already know that a negative bias exists for
BAME groups at many stages of the criminal justice system. It is concerning to hear that people are experiencing this negative bias to the point that it inhibits the delivery of effec- tive mental health support."

“People in contact with the criminal justice system already suffer significant health inequalities, particularly in the area of mental health.”

He continued: “If people from BAME groups have a poor experience with mental health services, they are less likely to engage in the future. This is why commissioners and providers must work with people with direct experience to understand how services should be designed to better engage people from BAME communities in mental health treatment at the earliest opportunity and ideally before they have contact with the criminal justice system.”

Race Equality Foundation chief executive officer, Ratna Dutt OBE, said: “More black men access mental health care through criminal justice than through health services. Experience and evidence shows that the criminal justice and the mental health systems are impersonal at best and deadly at worst, particularly for black and minority ethnic people."

"In order to create a system that works for all communities; ensures safety and promotes health and wellbeing, those in charge need to commit to change.”

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