Steve calls on PM to launch racism in mental health services inquiry

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Steve Reed MP has called on the Prime Minister to launch an inquiry into institutional racism in the mental health services.

Steve raised the case of Olaseni Lewis at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday 1 March. Mr Lewis, known as Seni, was a 23 year old from Thornton Heath who died in 2010 after being subjected to severe physical restraint by up to 11 police officers at the Royal Bethlem Hospital.

The restraint was so severe it broke Mr Lewis’s spine and put him in a coma. He died four days later.  He had no previous record of mental ill health, was in the hospital as a voluntary admission, and there are no allegations he threatened anyone before being forcibly restrained.  No police officers have ever been prosecuted.

An inquest is currently being held into Seni’s death, after a long campaign for justice by his family.

Young black men are significantly more likely to be diagnosed as psychotic or schizophrenic than other people with identical symptoms.  Once diagnosed, young black men are significantly more likely to be subject to more severe forms of medication or restraint than others with the same diagnosis.

Steve Reed MP said:

The campaign for justice for Seni Lewis has been going on for seven years, but sadly his is not an isolated case. Young black men using mental health services are significantly more likely to be subject to detention, severe medication or physical restraint than other young people and in extreme cases this leads to death.

The Prime Minister has offered warm words on improving the country’s mental health services, but she needs to act on the institutional racism which is killing people.

  • Steve Reed
    Steve Reed Member of Parliment for Croydon North

Steven Reed is Labour MP for Croydon North and Shadow Minister for Children and Families. In 2018 his private member’s bill on reducing violent mental health restraint became law. In June 2019 he launched Labour’s civil society strategy outlining radical plans to empower citizens and communities.

Steve chairs the Cooperative Councils Innovation Network, co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London, was Leader of Lambeth Council 2006-12 where he led the council’s children’s services to become best-rated in the country and pioneered the public-health approach to tackling violent youth crime. He worked in publishing for 16 years and was an elected trade union branch secretary.