Whiteness as a chemical restraint in the statutory guidance of the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018

Tribute to Seni’s Law and Aijibola Lewis

Credit: The Guardian – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrdGTkfSyw0

The last year has witnessed a proliferation of events, funding, and consultations around race in terms of the White Paper Review of the Mental Health Act and the statutory guidance in relation to the Mental Health Units, 20 (Use of Force) Act 2018. The increase in the involvement of diverse researchers, organisations and activists have not addressed the Lived experiences of race, how whiteness as a historical norm, value and practice shapes co-production and represents the ethnically diverse experience, particularly black men within current mental health systems. To achieve real authentic race equality whiteness as cultural restraint has not been addressed in terms of how it acquires funds, uses white researchers and black researchers to extract and exploit the experiences of black men, particularly that of Olaseni Lewis and Sean Riggs.

As a lived experienced, a black man with a history of a diagnosis, schizophrenia, and as a mental health practitioner, (ASW, Senior Care Manager, Commissioner, and teacher) I have been restrained and witnessed the individual, institutional, inter-related racialised abuses from chemical, physical, and mechanical in a range of mental health units, particularly Maudsley and Bethlem Royal hospitals. I have been physically violated as a patient in prison, in both the above units, by medical staff and worked with the police as a practitioner in the most intrusive, discriminatory, and racist practices, involving guns, overt use of medication and body control, involving violent forms of white behaviour.

Unfortunately, the guidance fails to understand the negative connotation of ‘Use of force’, the use of Eurocentric legal definitions of ‘Mental Disorder’ and the external political, structural, and economical role of mental health that reduces service users to a commercial commodity of control, a new type of slavery and Drapetomania in the use of restrictive practices in modern mental health care. Current research methods lack a lived experience reality of engaging with service users, through the use of patronising and disempowering models, a new type of mental health assessment, eliciting personal information through the use of interviews, photographs, videoing and focus groups. Unfortunately there has been a lack of an anti-racist pedagogic safe cultural learning space to disclose issues of race and racism, particularly within the dominant white researcher voice.

Unfortunately the impact has been a lack regard to the severity of both historical and personal concerns around the guidance to address racialised terms, such as force, coercion, segregation. A particular failure to address how restrictive practices operate as a norm in other inter-related structures for ethnically diverse communities as a lived experience,  the use of force as a continuum from the school, prison, the community into the mental health setting. More specifically the statutory incompetence of the Equality, Human Rights and Mental Capacity legislations to safeguard against the illegal value based use of force in mental health care in relation to black men, their peers, and their families. There has been a reluctance to discuss and look at the role of the lived experience of ethnically diverse black service users in terms of the methods and models of accountability needed in relation to the responsible officer, particularly in terms of treatment and care, data, use of body camera’s by the Police. Similarly there have been a lack of reference to the illegal use of the Act, particularly in terms of Section 1 of the Mental Health Act, Section 135 and 136 and the changes needed to ensure greater civil rights protection in relation abuse and the objectification and fear of the  black body and the use of the term, Acute Behavioural Disturbance.

White and diverse researchers and activists have negated and avoided looking at how the lived experience can ensure greater race accountability of the responsible person in mental health units from a racialised impact analysis that is independent of the existing legal framework. The issues of independence and models of training, and how the lived experience can shape the policy of ‘use of force’ in relation to the protective characteristic, ‘race’; and how it’s positioned ethnically and politically in terms of how black men being safeguarded through patient plans and post-care in relation to the NICE standards has been neglected. The implication for this type of avoidance is to silence and depoliticise a debate, through a whiteness as a constraint in the way it routinises focus groups appeal to comprise, through payment, as opposed to enabling an assertive critical analysis of the relationships between force, mental health, that have permeated into black families and black communities historically from the period of slavery.

Whiteness as a chemical and cultural restraint needs to change current research interventions to examine the ‘Use of force’ as an ideological metaphor that denies the lived authentic experience of restraint, as a symbolism of the death for black men. To use this experience not as a capital for system change but a new radical approach to the use of force. A more radical conceptual and interventional model using the lived experience model of consultation to change competencies in all related practices of mental health and related structures. This public mental health concern is beyond the notions of showing respect in the area of diversity, it about exposing unlawful discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. The tendency to use focus groups to look at techniques, risk, impact, and the ethical issues in terms of use of force, is a form of restraint to the reality of the experience. This represents a chemical response in which whiteness in terms of the statutory guidance relegates the importance of race and racism that has stemmed from the murder of black people inside the criminal justice and mental health system. The important implications of how terms such as ‘negligible use of force’, ‘investigation of deaths’, and the delegation of responsible person function enact a statutory guidance that is detached from the realities faced by black men and the use of force in modern Britain. It fails to expose how white and black researcher fail to reveal a new type of slavery in mental health through use of force.

There is currently an open consultation on the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Act 2018 statutory guidance. You can respond to the consultation here.