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Wednesday, 13 October, 1999, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Black men 'failed' by mental health system
Rampton hospital
Rampton hospital holds a disproportionate number of black patients
Black men are being let down by the mental health system which is supposed to look after them, says a leading psychiatrist.

Mental Health
Black men are 10 times more likely than white men to be diagnosed as schizophrenic, according to an investigation by the BBC's Black Britain programme.

Dr Kwame McKenzie, a psychiatrist at London's Maudsley Hospital, told the programme that the system was failing them.

"There is a cycle of fear...Everybody in the African Caribbean community knows that you're more likely to be sectioned, in prisib, given anti-psychotics...if you're black," he stated.

He said the problem began in the early stages of mental illness.

GPs were more likely to refer black men to a psychiatrist if they came into the surgery looking distressed, he said.

This was partly because black men were less likely to see their GP regularly and less likely to have developed a relationship with them.

"So when they come in and they are distressed maybe the GP freaks...," said Dr McKenzie.

Drugs

He added that psychiatrists appeared more likely to treat African Caribbean men with drugs.

Black Britain says black men are proportionately more likely to be held in secure hospitals than their white counterparts.

At Rampton maximum security hospital in Nottinghamshire, 16% of inmates are black, compared with 1% of the general population outside.

Christopher Clunis
Tony's case in simlar to that of former patient Christopher Clunis jailed for killing a man
The programme's investigation highlights the case of Tony, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, who has been a patient at Rampton for four years after he killed a New Zealand tourist in London in 1995.

Tony was taken into care at birth and returned to his mother, who had also been in care as a child, when he was six.

He says he was beaten by her and learnt that violence was a way of dealing with problems from an early age.

Tony began to miss school and was put in care.

He turned to crime and got into drugs, but the intervention of his special needs teacher helped him bail himself out.

He started his own business and got married.

But in 1994, he was detained - unjustly he says - by police and accused of being drunk and disorderly. He suffered his first apparent psychotic episode.

Black Britain says research shows a violent arrest and a sense of injustice can be the trigger for severe mental health problems.

Snapping

Dr McKenzie said Tony's troubled background meant he did not have the resources to fall back on when things went wrong so he just snapped.

Tony was convicted and put on probation. He refused to see a doctor because of a distrust of psychiatric services.

Researchers say may black males have had bad experiences of institutions while growing up and learn to distrust them.

Tony, who had lost his wife and job by this time, was then arrested for waving an imitation gun around.

He was released on bail, despite an expert report saying he should be detained in hospital.

Because the report was not signed and there was no specific recommendation of where Tony should be treated, the court had to release him.

Four days later he killed 24-year-old Louise Crow.

Black Britain says attempts are being made to address the system's failings by encouraging black men to seek help early.

The Sheffield African Caribbean Mental Health Association is one grassroots group which aims to give support to people before they get to the point where they could snap.

Voices, Black Britain's report on black men and mental health, is on BBC2 at 7.30pm BST on Monday 4 October.

See also:

13 Oct 99 | Health
Suicidal 'failed' by NHS
13 Oct 99 | Health
Mental Health Act 1983
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