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Mental health detention figures highlight huge disparity between ethnic groups

According to NHS Digital figures, the number of people detained under the Mental Health Act in England has shown a 'worrying' rise in the past year.
Mental health detention

According to NHS Digital figures, the number of people detained under the Mental Health Act in England has shown a 'worrying' rise in the past year

The figures show a rise in detentions, where people are formally detained in hospital in the interests of their own or other people's safety, as well as an increase in the use of Community Treatment Orders (CTOs), whereby those previously detained are allowed to leave hospital but continue treatment in the community.

NHS Digital has changed how it collects data under the Mental Health Act, and as a result the Mental Health Act Statistics, Annual Figures: 2016-17, Experimental statistics are incomplete and not directly comparable to previous years.

Ethnic group comparisons

Despite this, the latest information shows there were 45,864 new detentions

According to NHS Digital figures, the number of people detained under the Mental Health Act in England has shown a 'worrying' rise in the past year

Mental health detention
Picture: iStock

The figures show a rise in detentions, where people are formally detained in hospital in the interests of their own or other people's safety, as well as an increase in the use of Community Treatment Orders (CTOs), whereby those previously detained are allowed to leave hospital but continue treatment in the community.

NHS Digital has changed how it collects data under the Mental Health Act, and as a result the Mental Health Act Statistics, Annual Figures: 2016-17, Experimental statistics are incomplete and not directly comparable to previous years.

Ethnic group comparisons

Despite this, the latest information shows there were 45,864 new detentions and 4,966 CTOs – which NHS Digital estimates to be a 2% increase.

Comparisons between ethnic groups also show rates of detention for 'black or black British' people is 272.1 per 100,000 population; four times the rate for white people, which was 67.0 per 100,000.

Meanwhile the rate for CTO use shows 60.1 per 100,000 among the black or black British group – a figure almost nine times greater than the 6.8 uses for the white group.

Centre for Mental Health deputy chief executive Andy Bell said the figures – especially the rise in detentions – are ‘worrying’.

Rise in detentions

He added: ‘Although the collection methods have changed, there has still been a rise in detentions every year since the act was last given a major review in 2007.

‘The act should only be used in this context as an absolute last resort. It can save lives, but it can also cause unnecessary trauma.

‘We have been talking about the disparity between its use among black and African-Caribbean groups for years but, despite attempts, we have not got very far at all.

‘The prime minister’s recent announcement of an independent review of the act reminded us this disparity is systemic.’

Deteriorating mental health

Mr Bell revealed his organisation did research which found at the age of 11 young black people had ‘as good, if not better', than average mental health than the average.

Yet by the time they reach young adulthood, this group saw significant increases in levels of schizophrenia and detentions under the act.

He added: ‘We have to examine the factors which create a sense of what it means to be young and black in Britain in the 21st century and also improve the relationship between the police and NHS to ensure people are getting the right support at the right time.’

Mind’s policy and campaigns manager Leila Reyburn said: ‘Mainstream mental health services often fail to understand or provide services accessible to non-white British communities, meaning black groups are less likely to seek early support, instead coming in to contact with services at crisis point.’


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