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Contributor: Victor Amokeodo

For the first time ever, a person of African descent is in charge of mental health policy in Britain. And what?s more, Junior health Minister Paul Boateng is acutely aware of the raw deal being given by Black people under the mental health system. He has promised to put things right.
His most public comment on the issue, since his appointment as Health Minister, came last November at MIND?s annual conference in Scaborough where he condemned existing mental health services for failing the needs of Black people. In his speech, he said, ?I get sick and tired of the approach to research and development which sees Black people like laboratory mice which have to be seen under a microscope ? largely by white laboratory technicians. But the mice are biting back and there is a big mouse in charge.? He confirmed Black Perspective?s views by charging that when it came to the treatment of Black patients, there had not been as much emphasis on ?talking therapies? as there ought to have been.
This is certainly tough talking from the minister but he faces a difficult task in his attempt to deliver his promises by Black mental health users. Being the first and only Black minister, he will need tread cautiously lest he is accused of overplaying the race card in the pursuance of his duties. But black people are the victims of this saga and, regardless of his colour, Mr Boateng has a responsibility to put things right. How far he will achieve this task is left to be seen, but Black Perspective will pursue him ceaselessly, if necessary, to force him to do the right thing.
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