I'm pleased I managed to get beyond my scepticism about why there is a need to re-state the issues which are the subject of this book. Though much in it has been said many times before, there is enough that is new to warrant a second look.
Its strength lies in two areas.
The first is the editors' ability to have assembled a number of different voices. This aids its overall impact and helps to drive home the message that focusing on race, culture and ethnicity should be on everyone's agenda - not least consultant psychiatrists'. Annie Bartlett's essay, for example, on racism and the expression of identity, quite rightly notes:
'Healthcare professionals have a duty to understand not only concepts of individual pathology but also concepts of society and culture and cultural values.'
Helping to bring texture and credibility are the views of respected practitioners such as Georgina Linton, who discusses the historical and political context of change in high secure provision from her vantage point of having been a commissioning manager with the high-security psychiatric services commissioning board.
The second point worth noting is the book's accessibility. Its mix of essays and poetry intersperses the personal and the political. This helps to underscore the rich and multi-layered aspects which frame black and minority ethnic people's lives - in the mental health system and more broadly. This is especially evident in Stan Grant's excellent entry on his experiences as the first black psychotherapist at Broadmoor.
The book also incorporates the voices of users of mental health services. This reinforces what might otherwise have been just another text stating the professional view.
I would have liked more of a balance between the professional view and that of diverse users' views. The essay entitled, 'The Experience of Being a Black Patient' is compelling - for its straightforward re-telling of a tortuous journey that led to humiliating detention in Broadmoor, and for its hopefulness about the positive change that has begun.
Charles Kaye and Tony Lingiah pick up the theme of progress at Broadmoor. It is noteworthy - work in equal opportunities, attending to patients' spiritual needs, proactively addressing issues of diversity - including race and cultural needs. There is still a long way to go.