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Mental health detentions four times higher for black or black British people


By Léa Legraien
12 October 2018

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Black or black British people are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white people, statistics have revealed.

Figures from NHS Digital’s published on Tuesday show that detentions under the Mental Health Act for people from a black or black British background are more than four times higher than the rate for white individuals.

The findings come as the Government commissioned an independent review of the act, looking at how current legislation and practice can be improved. The recommendations are due to be published in the autumn.

Key findings for 2017/18

  • The number of new detentions increased by 8%, from 45,864 in 2016/17 to 49,551 in 2017/18.
  • There were 289 detentions per 100,000 population for the black or black British group, compared to 72 for the white group.
    More men were treated under a community treatment order (CTO) – 11 per population group of 100,000 – as opposed to six for women.
  • CTO rates for the black or black British group were over eight times greater than those for those in the white group, with 56 uses per population group of 100,000, compared to six.
  • Under the act, people with a mental health problem who are deemed at risk of harming themselves or others can be detained in hospital. They can also be treated in communities, once they have been discharged or allowed out of hospital. This process is known as a CTO. 

‘Shocking, persistent problem’

Charity Rethink Mental Health Illness acting associate director of campaigns and policy Will Higham said that the ‘disproportionate rates for black people, specifically men, are a ‘shocking and persistent problem’.

He told Healthcare Leader: ‘Whilst we recognise that the reasons behind rising rates of detention are complex, it is clear that this is symptomatic of a system that’s in dire need of meaningful change.’

In its interim report published in May, the Government acknowledged the challenges with the use of the act in relation to different ethnic groups. It stated that people of black Caribbean, black African and mixed black ethnicity are at a ‘high risk of being sectioned’.

‘Wake-up call’ 

Echoing Mr Higham’s comments, mental health charity Mind head of policy and campaigns Vicki Nash said the figures are ‘yet another wake-up call about the urgent need to reform the Mental Health Act’.

She continued: ‘Although the data is unfortunately incomplete, it appears that some worrying trends are continuing.

‘Being sectioned is one of the most serious things that can happen to somebody experiencing a mental health problem. Whatever the therapeutic intent or clinical need, it can be completely disempowering.’

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