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Lambeth Council tackles poor mental health services

LAMBETH UNREST: Brixton riots in 1981 (PA)

LAMBETH COUNCIL has launched a commission to tackle poor mental health among its Caribbean and African Community.

The Black Mental Health commission was established as part of a set of measures by Lambeth's health and adult social care scrutiny committee to improve adult mental health services in the borough.

The launch in Lambeth, home to one of the UK’s largest black communities, coincides with Black History Month.

More than 50 per cent of people admitted to acute psychiatric wards, and 65 per cent to forensic secure wards, are from Caribbean and African communities. Mental health issues are also more prevalent amongst black men compared with white men, studies have suggested.

Edward Davie, chair of Lambeth Council’s health and adult social services scrutiny committee, told the Guardian: “While black people are massively over-represented in the most serious end of the mental health system, they are consistently under-represented in mild and moderate treatment areas.

“Anecdotally, many black people fear formal mental health services as places they have seen too many friends, family or community members deprived of their liberty and even their lives.”

Davie, who will be co-chairing the commission with black service-user and carer Jacqui Dyer, said high profile cases such as the deaths of Sean Rigg and Olaseni Lewis, have weakened public confidence in the mental health services.

He added: “This creates a vicious circle where black people stay away from services until they are so unwell that treatment is less likely to be successful and they are more likely to react negatively.”

The commission will be drawing expertise from key organisations such as south London and the Maudsley NHS Mental Health Trust, Lambeth clinical commissioning group, NHS England and academia.

Davie said: “At the prevention end we know that parenting, poverty, housing and community all play an important part in a person's mental health and we must find better ways to support people in all these areas.

“It does not help that authorities such as Lambeth are dealing with disproportionate cuts, our public health settlement is less than half that of places like the city of London and the NHS funding formula will further disadvantage younger, poorer populations like ours but we are determined to make the best of what we have for our residents with the greatest need.”

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