published: 5 April 2016
Before David ‘Rocky’ Bennett’s death in a psychiatric unit 18 years ago, he sent a letter to the nurse director, pointing out there were no black staff members. He wrote:
“There are over half a dozen black boys in this clinic. I don’t know if you have realised that there are no Africans on your staff at the moment”.
Bennett died while being held down by four staff members at a psychiatric unit after a violent altercation with another patient and a nurse. Looking at the circumstances around his untimely death, it’s clear his blackness was threatening to staff members. He had been using the mental health for at least a decade, yet his needs as a black Rastafarian were not being met.
Bennett’s death was a catalyst for what became ‘delivering race equality’ in health, however the cuts since 2010 mean little is currently being done. He is just one example of the mental health system failing people of colour – Sarah Reed, who died in a prison cell earlier this year after having been sexually assaulted, is a more recent case, but the list is far, far longer.