Black people are three times more likely to be admitted to a mental health hospital

The first Wales- and England-wide study of the ethnicity of people using inpatient mental health services has shown that Black African and Caribbean people are three times more likely to be admitted to hospital and up to 44% more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act.

The census also shows that men from the Black Caribbean, Black African, Other Black and Indian groups are around 50% more likely than average to be placed in seclusion, and black men are 29% more likely to experience one or more incidents of control and restraint.

The “Count-Me-In” mental health and ethnicity census was carried out jointly by the Mental Health Act Commission, the Healthcare Commission, and the National Institute for Mental Health in England, and covered almost 34,000 mental health inpatients, using services provided by all 102 eligible NHS trusts and 110 independent providers in Wales and England.

In a joint foreword to the report, Healthcare Commission Chairman Sir Ian Kennedy and Mental Health Act Commission Chairman Professor Kamlesh Patel stated: “This census demands an explanation. It does not provide one. The job of discovering the reasons behind the data must be undertaken with urgency.

“It would be wrong and intolerable if someone were categorised as mentally ill and hospitalised solely on the basis of colour or ethnic origin. It would be equally wrong and intolerable if someone who is mentally ill and would benefit from care in hospital did not have that benefit because those charged with such decisions were anxious that they may be accused of racial prejudice.”

Commenting on the census, Bill Walden-Jones, Chief Executive of Welsh mental health charity Hafal, said: “We have been aware for some time of inequalities in the delivery of mental health services, and we welcome this census as it shows exactly the extent of the problem – and gives us a benchmark that must be improved on.

“It is imperative that these findings are taken seriously and acted upon immediately. People with a mental illness are already unfairly stigmatised by society. For them to suffer further discrimination within mental health services is simply unacceptable.”

The census is published in the same week that the Mental Health Alliance has criticised the new Mental Health Bill as being potentially damaging to race equality. In its submission to the Government’s consultation paper of the Race Equality Impact Assessment of the Mental Health Bill, the Alliance warned that as currently drafted the Bill would be likely to have a disproportionate impact on black people, and that the Bill should include an explicit statement of non-discrimination and respect for diversity.

Alliance Chair Paul Farmer stated: “The Mental Health Act is already used disproportionately with African and Caribbean people. The new Bill is an opportunity to craft legislation that supports the Government’s drive to deliver race equality in mental health services. Yet the current draft is likely to do the opposite.

“Our 75 members together urge the Government to make very significant changes to the draft Bill and use this opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of Black people in the mental health system.”

For more information on the Healthcare Commission census, go to the Healthcare Commission website.

For more information on the Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of 75 organisations working together on the Mental Health Bill, click here.