It’s crucial the UK Government hears from people from different Black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities, to make sure any changes to the Mental Health Act work equally well for people from different cultural backgrounds, as well as urgently tackling the underlying and systemic racism that results in disproportionate detentions and use of force.
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A jury found that the way in which a Briggs was restrained by police “more than minimally” contributed to his death, the inquest found.
39 year old Leon Briggs in 2013 was detained under the Mental Health Act, handcuffed and taken to Luton police station, he also had leg restraints, suffering from a psychotic episode and he had taken amphetamines. Officers responded after being told he was darting into shops, talking to himself and wandering into traffic. Police had subsequently restrained Mr Briggs in a face-down position in the street for more than 13 minutes.
Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind, says:
“Leon Briggs’s death and the awful circumstances surrounding it are sickening. Our thoughts and sympathies remain with his family and friends. Time is not a healer in such instances, given Leon’s loved ones are only now going through the inquest eight years after losing him, which we know can be a distressing and difficult experience. Nobody should see a loved one die while experiencing a mental health crisis and under police care.
“Being restrained is not just humiliating and dehumanising, it’s also life threatening. We’ve long been calling for an end to these practices, especially face down restraint. When someone is having a mental health crisis, they may be suicidal, self-harming or in psychosis, and feeling very frightened or distressed. At the very least, their loved ones should be able to trust that they will be kept safe and are treated with dignity and care they deserve and need – by the services there to protect them.
“Leon Briggs is another person in a long line of Black men who have died at the hands of those meant to keep them safe. His death, along with those of Olaseni (‘Seni’) Lewis, Kevin Clarke and many more, should have never happened. It’s been more than 20 years since the Macpherson inquiry identified institutional racism, but it still pervades in society and in our public services. Too often, rather than being seen as someone who needed help, Black men are seen as a threat, treated that way, and end up dead.
“Some communities – particularly Black men – are far more likely to be held against their will under the Mental Health Act, often subjected to humiliating and life-threatening practices like physical and chemical restraint. The increase in detentions demonstrates that the Act, and wider mental health care, fails to support people when they are acutely unwell, especially people from different Black Asian and other ethnic minority communities.
“That’s why the UK Government must enact Mental Health (Use of Force) or Seni’s Law to make sure police wear body cameras and reduce use of force when in a mental health setting. Much-needed legislation to reform the Mental Health Act is urgently needed to create a seismic shift in how Black people are treated when in crisis. We urgently need action to address the systemic racism resulting in disproportionate detentions and use of force – whether in police and hospital settings or in the community.”