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We need to talk about mental health, part 2


HOWEVER, THE Government response by Home Secretary Amber Rudd sadly failed to acknowledge the issue of disproportinate impact of black deaths in custody or even adopting any recommendations on race equality.

Along with the race disparity audit and the report on deaths in custody, we need to step up and take a bigger leadership role in creating a new agenda on black mental health by exploring structural racism in society and its impact on mental health services and establish our approach to public health mental and accountability.

After the Delivering Race Equality (DRE) programme in 2010, we need a national campaign and race equality strategy especially as the UN International Decade for African Descent (2015-2024) obliges government to develop a national plan in partnership with the black community.

Otherwise we will continue with a colour-blind approach and more black over-representation for another 30 years in mental health services. We need to be proactive in shaping our own destiny in creating our own solutions around policy, research, service development and campaigning at a local level.

A new initiative called Black Thrive is part of a new trend and approach in how the community can work in partnership with statutory and public services. Black Thrive was established in June to tackle the issue of mental health in Lambeth which has one of the largest black populations in Britain. It is often seen as the centre of black cultural expression and home of black Britons because of the Windrush migration from 1948.

Black Thrive is taking forward the 40 recommendations from Lambeth Council who established an independent commission called the Black Health and Wellbeing Commission, which looked at the implications of the death of Sean Rigg in 2008.

The Black Thrive poster commemorating those who died in custody or mental health institutions

The Commission examined how mental health services and the public health agenda could be improved to support African and Caribbean community’s mental wellbeing. Black Thrive is using the principles and values of co-production where the community and statutory partners worked together around a solution focus using a shared measure system and unpacking big data.

Jacqui Dyer, chair of Black Thrive, will be sharing our journey and plans at a conference in Birmingham on November 25 entitled Stepping Out for Our Communities Mental Health – Beyond These Walls. The conference will have a focus on the mental health and wellbeing of the African and African-Caribbean communities. but will acknowledge shared experiences with other racialised communities. The host and event management lead will be the Women of Des- tiny Ministries, New Testament Church of God, Wandsworth.

One of the legacies of the Windrush generation is that we have a handful of black- led services around the country. Some have been going for more than 30 years, such as ACCI (Wolverhampton), SAC- MHA (Sheffield), PattΩigift (Birmingham), SACMHF (Sandwell), Boys2Men (Leeds) ISIS (London), Orme Centre (London), and Nubian Users forum (London).

There is also a new and emerging network of black activists, social entrepreneurs, academics, faith leaders, artists/cultural practitioners, pol- icy makers, campaigners and clinicians who recognise we
need to develop our responses in tackling issues around men- tal health in the community.

Black Thrive aims to tap into this talent to create solutions, influencing, shaping and commissioning the development of services in Lambeth and serve as a potential model and tem- plate for a new race equality strategy at a national level.

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