Mental Health Act detentions rise sharply for BME groups

The over-representation of black and minority ethnic people detained under the Mental Health Act in England rose significantly last year, figures produced today by the NHS Information Centre showed.

They showed that while the number of people detained in hospital rose by 0.3% from 2007-8 to 2008-9, the proportion of black and black British people detained rose by 9.7%.

There was also a 9% rise in the number of Asian or Asian British and mixed-race people detained for treatment.

All three groups were already over-represented among detained patients and this disparity grew from 2007-8 to 2008-9.

In 2008-9, 53.9% of black/black British inpatients spent time compulsorily detained during the year, as did almost half of mixed-race inpatients and over 40% of Asian/Asian British inpatients.

This compares with 31.8% of all psychiatric inpatients who spent some time detained during the year.

Among inpatients in general, numbers fell by 3%, however they rose by 5.3% among black/black British people.

The NHS Information Centre said the figures also called into question the idea that the over-representation of BME groups in more intense and coercive forms of care could be attributed to a lack of engagement with services until the point of crisis.

The figures showed that rates of access to mental health services in general was highest for black/black British people at 3,453 people per 100,000 in the population, compared with an overall average of 2,949 per 100,000.

Steve Shrubb, director of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, which represents most mental health trusts, said: “These figures are a really useful tool for policy makers and NHS organisations to start analysing the different factors that make up demand for mental health services.

“It is a sad fact that many black and minority ethnic groups will tend to be more disadvantaged in terms of employment, housing opportunities, negative experiences of the criminal justice system and a range of other factors. Given this level of disadvantage, there is an inevitable strain on mental health.

“Solutions for tackling these issues are not the sole responsibility of mental health services. All public services have a role to play in encouraging better mental health and well-being.”

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