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Concern over mental health training for police

July 7, 2009

The Future Coalition, an umbrella group, has produced a report recommending that public sector workers, including police and teachers, should be trained to spot and refer people they encounter with mental health issues.

Not suprisingly this seemingly benign recommendation has alarmed some people who justifiably suspect that this traning will simply provide another way for minority groups to be stigmatised and marginalised.

The idea of police being able to label someone as mentally ill is definitely Orwellian, and should be regarded with great circumspection.

Black Mental Health UK (BMHUK) has accused the report’s authors, which includes a group of prominent mental health charities, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, of ignoring black and minority ethnic (BME) communities’ views on the possible fallout of their proposal.

The group claims that, if implemented, the recommendation could increase the chances of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds being misdiagnosed by amateurs with no professional mental health credentials and lead to further stigmatisation. People from black African-Caribbean backgrounds are more likely to enter the mental health system through the criminal justice system than any other group, and campaigners are worried that encouraging police officers to try to “spot” signs of mental distress could exacerbate the problem.

“There are grave concerns over the suggestion that the police or teachers should be trained in spotting signs of mental ill health,” said Matilda MacAttram, of BMHUK. “Currently black men are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts, as such it is unwise to suggest that the police should be responsible for spotting signs of mental ill health. It could lead to catastrophic results.”

via Concern over mental health training in public sector | Society | guardian.co.uk .

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