Thirty two women died after experiencing restraint over a five year period, according to new figures obtained by Agenda, an alliance for women and girls at risk.

The data, on patients detained under the Mental Health Act, suggests women were more likely to have restraint-related deaths than men between 2012/13 and 2016/17.

Younger women made up a large number of the restraint-related deaths – 13 were aged 30 and under, compared to four men in that age range.

More than a fifth of women who died were from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, according to the figures, which were originally gathered by the Care Quality Commission.

It comes as the Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill, aimed at reducing restraint, has its Third Reading in the House of Commons on Friday (July 6).

It was delayed last month after being "talked out" when Conservative MP Philip Davies spoke for two and a half hours during the debate. It officially ran out of time during a speech by Sir Christopher Chope, who then went on to block the ‘upskirting’ bill on the same day.

Response

Katharine Sacks-Jones, Director of Agenda and co-chair of the Women’s Mental Health Taskforce at the Department for Health and Social Care, said: “It is a national scandal that so many women are dying in our hospitals after being subjected to restraint."

"Mental health units are meant to be caring, therapeutic environments for women and girls feeling at their most vulnerable, not places where their lives are being put at risk."

"This bill is a real opportunity to reduce the use of this potentially lethal practice. We would urge all MPs to get behind it - this is no time to be playing politics with people’s lives."

Previous research by Agenda, as part of its Women in Mind mental health campaign, showed one in five women and girls were physically restrained in mental health units.

Women were more likely to be repeatedly restrained face-down, while girls were more likely than boys to experience any form of physical restraint, including face-down.

Ms Sacks-Jones added: "The majority of women in mental health units have experienced violence and abuse – so being restrained is not only frightening and humiliating, it can also retraumatise them.

"For this reason alone, physical restraint should be used only as a last resort. The fact that it is putting lives at risk too means there is added urgency."

"We need to see women and girls’ needs, including their history of trauma, taken into account in their mental health care so they are not subjected to treatment that is detrimental to their mental well-being, recovery and their physical health."

The Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill is also known as ‘Seni’s Law’, named after Olaseni Lewis who died after 11 police officers restrained him in 2010.

The Private Member’s Bill has been brought forward by Seni’s MP Steve Reed and is backed by several organisations including Agenda, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Young Minds and Inquest.

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