Jonathan Andel Malia is the latest in a long line of black men to die in custody. While by no means an exclusively black issue, the cases of Kingsley Burrell-Brown, Sean Rigg, Olaseni Lewis, Fitz Hicks, Mikey Powell, Roger Sylvester and now Jonathan Andel have highlighted the problems faced by detained black men – particularly those held in the mental health system.
Black people are subject to detention under the Mental Health Act in far greater numbers than their white counterparts, even though there isn't a higher prevalence of mental illness. Compulsion and coercion typify the black patient experience.
This is borne out by figures from a series of reports by the Care Quality Commission on ethnicity and mental health, which shows that black patients are 29 per cent more likely to be forcibly restrained, 50 per cent more likely to be placed in seclusion and far more likely to be labelled as psychotic and given much higher doses of antipsychotic medication than their white counterparts.
This year, there will be a series of inquests into a number of cases of black deaths in custody, including the disturbing case of Olaseni Lewis.
Olaseni, like Jonathan, was a voluntary patient. The 23-year-old masters graduate died after he was restrained by 11 police officers who were called on to the ward by staff at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust back in 2010. It will be almost three years before the Lewis family find out exactly how Olaseni lost his life. No family should have to wait this long.
Matilda MacAttram is director of Black Mental Health UK