Too many people have died following restraint in mental health units, and people from black and minority ethnic groups are disproportionately affected. Rethink Mental Illness has been campaigning for years to prevent this injustice and to ensure that patients with severe mental illness are treated fairly, safely and with dignity.
What is Seni’s law?
In 2018 we had a huge victory when a new law, known as Seni’s law, was passed to reduce the use of force against patients in mental health units. Seni’s Law is named after Olaseni Lewis, a man from Croydon in London who died aged 23 soon after being restrained by 11 police officers while in a mental health hospital. The Use of Force (Mental Health Units) Bill was tabled by Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North.
This win was a huge step towards making mental health hospitals a safer place for patients. This is because mental health units now have to take action to reduce the use of force against their patients. This includes providing better training for staff and making sure the police wear body cameras when they’re called to a mental health unit. Both changes will make a huge difference to increasing transparency and accountability about the use of force in these settings.
We are hugely grateful to Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North, for introducing the bill, as well as everyone who campaigned and worked with Rethink Mental Illness to ensure the bill was passed.
We will continue to speak out against this issue until we see change on the ground, and we see the end of racial discrimination within mental health units.
From May to August 2021, the Department for Health and Social Care opened a consultation on the Mental health Units Use of Force Act 2018 statutory guidance. The guidance sets out what mental health units must do to comply with the law. The consultation is now closed and the government is currently analysing the feedback they received, so watch this spare for the outcome of the consultation.
For further details on the consultation, click here: https://bit.ly/3hZbiUG