14 December 2021

The Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of organisations working in the mental health sector, have written to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, calling on him to address institutional racism in the Mental Health Act reform.

The letter comes following a public consultation on proposed changes to the Mental Health Act and the Government's subsequent response, which did not mention the Human Rights Act and made no reference to structural racism in the mental health system or clear plans on how this will be addressed. You can read BIHR’s plain language explainer about what’s happened and what’s missing here.

Click here to read the letter.

What does the letter say about the reform?

"Black people are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act and ten times more likely to be discharged from hospital under a Community Treatment Order...

However, the Government’s response to the public consultation only mentions racism once, in passing. There were no consultation questions specifically addressing the impact of MHA reform on people from racialised communities (“individuals who identify as BAME”). Nevertheless, many members of the Mental Health Alliance, who represent service users, carers, professionals and communities, raised institutional racism in their responses to the public consultation. We did not see these contributions adequately reflected or responded to within the Government’s response...

Only by acknowledging and addressing structural factors and providing significant investment in alternatives are we going to be able to improve access, experience and outcomes for mental health care, especially for racial minorities."

The letter asks the Government to commit to the following steps: 

  1. Publically acknowledge institutional racism in the use of Mental Health Act. 

  2. Commit to concretely improving disparities in detention rate by ethnicity, with publishing of clear annual targets to progressively reduce disparities by 20251. 

  3. Commit to long-term resourcing of all the recommendations pertaining to racialised groups outlined in the MHA Review. 

Where can I find out more?

  • Click here to read the letter on the NSUN (National Survivor User Network) website.
  • Click here to read our summary of the Mental Health Act reform and consultation.
  • Click here to read our Explainer on the Mental Health Act White Paper and consultation.
  • Click here to read our Explainer on the Government response to the consultation.