Three new methods to tackle racial inequity have been supported by MHT poll results, just weeks before recommendations for the new Mental Health Act are shared with the government and the public.

  • 77% of survey respondents (mental health professionals and members of the public) believe cultural awareness modules should be added to all degrees related to mental health professions.
  • 78% would like to see a BAME representative involved in all risk-assessment decisions.
  • 80% want alternatives to the clinical model of crisis care to receive more focus, investment and development.

Social injustice

The Mental Health Act is currently being reviewed amid increasing concern at the growing rate of detentions generally and greater awareness of the disproportionate amount of BAME individuals being sectioned.

Cultural awareness

77% of survey respondents (professionals and members of the public) believe cultural awareness modules should be added to all degrees related to mental health professions.

The lack of diverse persepectives in mental health training has been highlighted this month by intercultural psychotherapist Dawn Estefan.

“Tensions are encountered when little known and largely incompatible notions of mental health are brought into the therapeutic relationship,” she writes in Mental Health Today. “I have encountered enraged deities, curses, witches and devils in my work with clients, none of which made an appearance in the case studies or academic papers of my training and constantly challenge the boundaries of the theory I was taught.”

Diversity among decision makers

78% (36% 'yes'; 42% 'yes if possible') would like to see a BAME representative involved in all risk-assessment decisions .

A perception of “big, black and dangerous is still evident around risk assessment in how CTOs are used” says Patrick Vernon, co-founder of the Black Thrive mental health campaign group.

Alternatives approaches to meeting people's needs

80% want alternatives to the clinical model of crisis care to receive more focus, investment and development.

Black Mental Health UK have long campaigned for a “more holistic approach” to crisis care, with less focus on hospital-based care prompted by diagnosis. Our survey found support for this view.

“The high rates of labelling black people of African descent with a diagnosis of psychosis does not represent a real finding, rather an indication of bias in diagnostic practice,” argues BMHUK Director Matilda MacAttram.

“The mental health needs of black people are met with a forensic response from psychiatric services rather than a holistic therapeutic response.”

Support for proposals

Readers are being asked throughout 2018 for their views on how the Mental Health Act should be redrawn to reflect present days attitudes towards what good mental health care looks like.

The surveys form part of Mental Health Today’s In Our Right Mind campaign, which is pushing, throughout 2018, for new rights to be enshrined in the new Mental Health Act being drafted this year.

Next steps 

An independent team appointed by the government to review the current overarching mental health legislation – the 1983 Mental Health Act – are mandated to deliver recommendations to the government in late 2018 for replacement legislation.

Drafts of these recommendations will be published around Easter.

Under current law, individuals who are sectioned can be given treatment without being informed of it first, while advocates are chosen from a list.

“Our surveys shows there is clear appetite for all three of the proposals outlined in Mental Health Today by writers of colour working in the mental health sector,” said Mental Health Today co-editor Barney Cullum.

“The focus on the Mental Health Act this year represents an opportunity to reform not only legislation, but syllabuses and systems too.”

“Hospital treatment is a lifeline for many, but it should not become a permanent living arrangement, nor a way of life for anyone.”

60,000 people reach crisis point each year and more needs to be done to address the social disadvantages that can catalyse distress and detention.”

“Mental Health Today will make sure the views of all those with mental health needs and those of the professionals who work in mental health care day in, day out, are heard in advance of the new law being shaped.”

“We will be sharing all our evidence with Professor Simon Wessely, who is leading the independent Mental Health Act review, and look forward to seeing the initial recommendation due to be released around Easter.”

Mental Health Today’s In Our Right Mind campaign is backed by crowdfunding and supporters are invited to make a small contribution or share their experiences with the website.

Mental Health Today campaigns to make crisis care more compassionate and humane. We are all entitled to better mental health care but we need your help to continue this work. Please consider a small donation.

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