Policy Connect joins innovative new research project tackling mental health race disparities to reduce detention rates.

Black British people are four times more likely than white British people to be detained under the Mental Health Act. Furthermore, Black British men are more likely to receive mental health care under detainment (Race Equality Foundation, 2018). The disproportionate use of the Act to detain British men of African and Caribbean heritage is one of the key focus areas in the government’s plans for reform of the Mental Health Act.

Policy Connect is consequently pleased to announce that we are to partner with Manchester Metropolitan University on a new research project (Health, Psychology and Communities, 2021) seeking to address racial disparities for those ‘sectioned’ under the Mental Health Act.

The Mental Health Act covers the assessment, treatment and rights of people with a mental health disorder. Under the act, people can be detained or sectioned and treated without their consent if they are at risk of harm to themselves or others. Reforms planned under the government’s White Paper of January 2021 aim to seek parity in physical and mental health services, put patient’s views at the centre of their care, and tackle inequalities in detention.

Manchester Metropolitan researchers, led by Professor of Mental Health Joy Duxbury OBE, will work with black men detained under the Mental Health Act and develop an approach to reduce detention rates and improve their experiences.

Researchers will use creative and inclusive approaches, such as video stories and sharing events, to gain meaningful views of affected men and their families. This information, as well as views from mental health professionals, social workers and the police, will be used to develop an intervention to reduce detention rates and improve the experiences of black Afro-Caribbean men. These measures will then be tested for feasibility and piloted with mental health professionals, social workers and police forces.

The project, entitled ‘ImprovE-ACT’ is part of a £3-million investment into mental health research projects funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) I Policy Research Programme, aiming to reduce the number of compulsory hospital admissions for people with mental health conditions and improve the experiences of patients and their loved ones.

Professor Joy Duxbury OBE and lead researcher of the project said “Given ongoing concerns about the high rates of detention of vulnerable individuals and associated trauma for them and their families, this has the potential to be a crucial piece of research. We hope to co-create an authentic and effective intervention that will be produced by and for the most affected in a meaningful way. Most importantly we need to ensure that the voice of previously silenced communities is heard.”

Policy Connect will be working alongside the research team to raise awareness of Mental Health Act reform and the research project among policymakers; convening a series of events over the course of the project and reporting on outcomes and recommendations. We look forward to contributing to this important research as project co-investigators; the Mental Health Act reforms will be the most significant in 40 years and we look forward to co-creating meaningful change.

Jonathan Shaw, CEO of Policy Connect said “We are looking forward to working alongside MMU as co-investigators on this important research project. Policy Connect will be engaging with policymakers throughout to affect real and impactful change for black men interacting with the mental health act.”