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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 23:29 GMT 00:29 UK
Ethnic mental health care boost
Mental health patient
A higher proportion of black men are sectioned
An initiative to improve mental health services for ethnic minority patients is being launched by the government.

Black people are six times more likely to be sectioned than others, while Asian women are 40% more likely to commit suicide than white people.

Over the next three months the Department of Health will seek opinion on how best to tackle the problem.

The aim is not only to improve services, but to also to ensure local people know about them.

Pioneering initiatives
The Cares of Life Project, Southwark: Employing health workers in the local community
Karma Nirvana, Derby: Community support for Asian women, including a befriending service.
Health minister Rose Winterton: "This consultation will help to deliver better quality and more intelligently used information, more appropriate and responsive services, and more effective engagement with black and minority ethnic communities in mental health.

"Changing the current situation in mental health is about a number of key issues.

"We must make services equally accessible, offer choice in service provision and create an NHS that is fair to all and personal to you."

The Department of Health has set a target of employing 500 community development workers by 2006.

There are also plans to improve the collection of data on mental health among people from the ethnic minorities.

And the National Institute for Mental Health England (NIMHE) is to create nine senior posts to oversee a drive for greater equality in the provision of services.

The work is being overseen by Professor Kamlesh Patel, chair of the Mental Health Act Commission and director of the Centre for Ethnicity and Health at the University of Central Lancashire.

He said: "This is a long-term, whole-system approach designed to gain commitment and ownership from stakeholders, instil knowledge and confidence in the workforce and build mutual trust between services and the communities they serve.

"I am confident that this holistic, multi-layered approach will succeed."

Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, welcomed the initiative.

He said "There is an abundance of evidence to show that inequalities exist among ethnic minority communities both in service delivery and provision.

"Action is needed to ensure that services are accessible, adequate and appropriate to the needs of all users and reflecting their diverse needs."

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