‘Concerning’ rise in number of people being sectioned

·3 min read

Ministers have faced pleas for more funds to help people with mental health issues before they reach crisis point after figures show a rise in people being sectioned in health care facilities.

New data show that 53,239 people were detained under the Mental Health Act in England in 2020/21.

Officials have estimated that this is about 4.5% higher than previous years, based on the data available.

Statisticians also stressed that the true figure was likely to be higher as a number of organisations did not submit data.

Under the Act, people with a mental disorder may be formally detained in hospital, or sectioned, in the interests of their own health or safety.

People may be detained in secure psychiatric hospitals, other NHS Trusts or at independent hospitals.

The new figures show detentions were higher among men than women and tended to decline with age.

And detentions among adults from black backgrounds were four times higher than among people from white backgrounds, according to the NHS Digital data.

Mental health charity Mind raised concern about the figures and called for more investment in community mental health services to get people the help they need at an earlier stage.

Vicki Nash, head of policy, campaigns and public affairs at Mind, said: “It would be concerning at any time to see an increase in the number of people detained for mental health treatment, but it is even more troubling off the back of the pandemic, when we know so many people have struggled with their mental health.

“Crucially, people must be able to access mental health support early on so that they don’t reach crisis point.

“This is particularly important as one way of tackling institutional racism in the mental health system, which means a hugely disproportionate number of black people are sectioned.

“Equally important, when people do reach this point, they should be treated with dignity and respect, which current legislation used to detain people does not have at its heart.

“We therefore expect the UK Government to use tomorrow’s Spending Review to make sufficient investment in community mental health services, so people can get help when they need it, and in making its proposed reform of the Mental Health Act a reality.”

Will Johnstone, policy manager at the charity Rethink Mental Illness, added: “Every statistic in this data represents a person whose life has been put on hold due to mental illness, and we cannot become immune to the fact that the number of people detained under the Mental Health Act continues to rise.

“The increase also underlines how people severely affected by mental illness have been acutely impacted by the pandemic.

“It’s also hugely dispiriting to see that yet again Black or Black British people are four times more likely to be detained than White people, and that there has been so little change in these statistics over the years.

“We have been campaigning on this issue for years and welcome the government’s commitment to reform this outdated legislation.

“This reform must be prioritised, but legislative change on its own will not drive down detentions.

“To help prevent people from reaching crisis and ultimately reduce detention rates, the NHS Long Term Plan must be supported with funding for social care and community services to support people to stay well and out of hospital.”

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