Birmingham’s new mental health champion

By on 25/10/2013 in Cllr Bedser, Cllr Hamilton, News

Cllr Paulette Hamilton has been appointed Birmingham's first Mental Health Champion.

And Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser is confident the Handsworth Wood councillor ‘will work tirelessly to ensure that people in Birmingham with mental health issues are better understood and better served.’

Cllr Hamilton has been appointed to help shape services and improve understanding of mental health issues across the city. She explained: “I see my role as linking the city council with communities, the NHS, the police and other agencies. We all have a part to play in breaking down barriers and promoting a wider understanding of mental health.

“I'm really pleased that the Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, has asked me to take this role and I think it shows how serious he is about changing the perceptions of mental health in Birmingham.

“Birmingham is a city of health inequalities and people know all about things like the differences in life expectancy across the city. But we are also a city of mental health inequalities and I want to help put that right.

“We have to target the help where it is most needed and not just when someone reaches crisis point or comes into contact with the criminal justice system. We have to target the early intervention programmes where they can be most effective.

“This is not just about the authorities, communities can and must play their part. We have to break the old taboos about mental health to ensure that people don't become isolated and forgotten about. If someone has a physical illness we rally around and care for them. We have to do the same for people with mental health issues.”

Cllr Bedser announced the appointment at the latest session of a scrutiny inquiry into mental health services and the criminal justice system.

He added: “I know Paulette is very passionate about this issue and she will work tirelessly to ensure that people in Birmingham with mental health issues are better understood and better served.

“There are significant parts of our population who might find that their mental health status leads them to being unduly criminalized - I'm particularly mindful of the experience of African Caribbean men - and that begs a fundamental question about whether the support currently on offer is right and culturally appropriate.

“Paulette will help us address these issues of inequality and I look forward to working with her on such a vital issue.”

In Birmingham

  • Mental illness is associated with one in every five people occupying a hospital bed each day. We are uncertain how much of this is related to alcohol and substance misuse.
  • Prescriptions for anti-depressants, stimulants and drugs for Attention Deficit
  • Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have been increasing at a rate of 5% per year.
  • In Birmingham some general practices prescribe very high volumes of antidepressant drugs.
  • There is a social gradient in self-harm and some wards present a significantly higher rate of self-harm and suicide than Birmingham generally.
  • The ethnic breakdown of the population receiving services from Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust is 73% White, Asians 11.1% and Black populations 5.4%.
  • Black ethnic groups present higher rates of referrals and detention under the Mental Health Act.
  • There is a higher concentration of hospital admissions for the 35-49 age group for schizophrenia and mood conditions.
  • 20% of alcohol specific hospital admissions are for mental and behavioural conditions due to alcohol.

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