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Five ways the review of the Mental Health Act could change to support Black mental health

The impending review of the Mental Health Act, 1983 is a real opportunity to at least partly address certain of the disproportionate number of Black People who are subject to the provisions of the Mental Health Act, 1983. The hope is that potential changes will serve to reduce the overuse of powers supported by the Act which result in the disproportionate detention of Black people.

Although the following areas are not all explicit within the Act, these areas are set up in the way they are because of the Act coupled with the statutory structures who work to reinforce them. The main areas where change needs to be noticeable are outlined below:

  • Parity of esteem
  • Availability of Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit beds (PICU) locally. As it is Black people who are disproportionately detained and sectioned under the Act them they are more likely to be in need of PICU beds. However, there is a dearth of these beds and more and more people are being admitted to PICU units over a 100 miles away from family, e.g. Sandwell residents can be admitted as far away as Manchester, East London & Surrey.
  • Places of Safety must not be in Police stations. Many of us are now tired and angry at counting how many Black people are detained in Police stations under a Section 136 of the Act and die hours later under suspicious circumstances. Places of Safety within community settings in partnership with Third Sector organisations and specialist culturally responsive organisations is a potential solution.
  • A reduction in Community Treatment Orders. Again these are disproportionately imposed on Black People.
  • People being detained under the Act would benefit from Advocacy. Research informs that those most in need of advocacy are least likely to receive it.

Pat Clarke is the Chief Officer, at the Sandwell African Caribbean Mental Health Foundation