A study led by researchers at Warwick Medical School has shown that a patient’s ethnicity does not impact the likelihood of detention under the Mental Health Act.

For about two decades, there has been significant concern about the overrepresentation of Black and Ethnic Minority groups amongst people detained under the Mental Health Act. It has been suggested that British psychiatry is institutionally racist – dealing with ethnic minorities in a discriminatory, coercive and culturally insensitive manner to the detriment of those patients.

The new research studied data collected over four years on all patients who were assessed for possible detention under the Mental Health Act across three diverse regions; Birmingham, Oxfordshire and West London.

In over 4,000 such assessments, about two thirds of patients were consequentially detained under the Act. Patient ethnicity by itself did not affect the chances of being detained; detention was associated with serious mental illness, the presence of risk and levels of social support.

Professor Swaran Singh of Warwick Medical School, who led the study explained what this means: “the Mental Health Act enables services to offer much needed help and support to those suffering from serious mental disorders who are at risk and do not have adequate community support. Hopefully these findings will allow us to move forward without the lingering suspicion of institutional racism in British psychiatry and reduce mistrust between minority communities and the mental health services.”

The full paper “Ethnicity as a predictor of detention under the Mental Health Act” can be viewed here free of charge for a limited time.


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