Mental Health Act reform: research project aiming to improve black men’s experiences under the Act begins

Today, the first symposium of a research project aiming to improve the experiences of black men detained under the Mental Health Act will be held.

The project will begin with a symposium chaired by Lord Keith Bradley and with speakers including Mental Health and Care Minister Gillian Keegan MP. The project is led by co-investigators from Manchester Metropolitan University and Policy Connect and funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

The project will be used to inform the government reforms of the Mental Health Act, following the independent review of the Act commissioned by government and whose recommendations government accepts. 

The Mental Health Act is the main legislation governing the assessment, treatment and rights of people with a mental health disorder. Involuntary detainment under the Act is intended to protect those in crisis from harm and provide therapeutic benefit in the least restrictive way possible.  

However, the powers in the Act are used variably. Black British men are four times more likely than white British people to be detained under the Act. Once detained, black men are restrained more often than their white counterparts and are more often detained on high-security wards. The experience of this detention has a detrimental knock-on effect on people’s health, education, and social interactions. 

The government has acknowledged that the Act in its current form does not work for everyone and is in the process of reforming it.  

This is why Policy Connect and Manchester Metropolitan University are beginning a study working with black men detained under the Act to improve experiences and reduce detention rates, funded by the National Institute of Health Research.  

The study will produce local and national policy recommendations to inform the reform of the Act.

This work begins with today’s symposium, whose co-chairs and speakers include:  

  • Mental Health and Care Minister Gillian Keegan  
  • Lord Keith Bradley, former Minister of State for Criminal Justice, Sentencing and Law Reform 
  • Dr Colin King, lived experience advocate and mental health practitioner 
  • Ajibola Lewis, lived experience advocate 
  • Kenny Thompson, lived experience advocate 
  • Professor Joy Duxbury OBE, Senior Mental Health Researcher at MMU 

“I am so proud to be a part of this work and believe that working with and being led by those most seriously affected and disadvantaged by mental health legislation, we can together to make significant and much needed change to policy and practice.”   

Joy Duxbury – Senior Mental Health Researcher at MMU 

“I am delighted to be involved in this research. We now have a real opportunity for policy change, with the ongoing reform of the Mental Health Act. Working closely with people affected, we will focus on improving the experiences of people detained and take this opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of black men detained under the Act. 

Becky Rice – Head at Health at Policy Connect 

More information about this project and updates as the project progresses can be found on our website.