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Mental Health Act figures underscore need for reform to tackle inequalities, says Centre for Mental Health

25 January 2024

Latest NHS Digital figures on the Mental Health Act again demonstrate the urgent need for long-awaited reforms to be enacted, Centre for Mental Health chief executive Andy Bell said today.

While overall rates of detention remain similar to previous years, they again outline stark disparities, with Black people still nearly four times as likely to be detained under the Act.

Black people were also more likely to be held under section 136 (detained in a place of safety by  the police), to receive a Community Treatment Order (so they are still subject to the Act when they leave hospital) and to be detained more than once. This year’s figures show a slight reduction in these disparities, and overall use of the Act.

The data also shows that people in the most economically deprived areas are 3.5 times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than those in the least deprived, again highlighting the harmful impact that poverty and inequality have on our mental health.

Centre for Mental Health chief executive, Andy Bell, said: “Today’s new data again exposes the stark inequalities inherent within this outdated legislation.

“Eight years since the former Prime Minister Theresa May committed to modernising the Mental Health Act, and five years since the Independent Review, we are still waiting for the Government to fulfil its promise.

“The current Mental Health Act – now 40 years old – reinforces mental health inequalities, with its disproportionate use among racialised communities and particularly Black people. The comprehensive review outlined changes to better safeguard people’s rights and dignity which are long overdue.

“It’s imperative that a Mental Health Bill is introduced early in the next Parliament, so that people receive fairer, safer and more compassionate care when they’re struggling with their mental health.

“We’re also calling for wider reforms in mental health to tackle the racial injustices which are so apparent from today’s data. A properly resourced, nationwide implementation of the Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework will be a critical element of this. And we need continued investment in mental health services so that they are there to meet people’s needs quickly, effectively and equitably.

“Underpinning all of these reforms, the Government needs to recognise the undeniable impact that poverty and deprivation have on people’s mental health. Vital reforms to legislation and services must be matched by broader cross-government action to tackle poverty and inequality that cause so much poor mental health.”

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