profswaransinghA patient’s ethnicity does not have an impact on the likelihood of their detention under the Mental Health Act, a study has found.

The research by Warwick Medical School, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, found that 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.

The findings counter long-standing concerns about the overrepresentation of Black and Ethnic Minority groups among 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.

Lingering suspicion of institutional racism
However, researchers 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 more than 4,000 such assessments, about two thirds of patients were consequentially detained under the Act.

Professor Swaran Singh (pictured) of Warwick Medical School, who led the study said: “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.”