Independent Mental Health Advocacy
Helping people who have been detained under the Mental Health Act
When someone is admitted to hospital they can be detained under the Mental Health Act. This can be very distressing, and sometimes people who are being detained feel powerless and unable to ask questions or get information.
Independent advocacy can help. The support of a trained advocate can help someone understand:
• Why they have been detained
• Explain their rights under the Mental Health Act
• Ensure their views and wishes are taken into account by professional staff involved in their care and treatment.
Our advocates are fully-trained to work with patients detained under the Mental Health Act. Their experience and knowledge can help ensure that patients are involved in the decisions that are made about them.
What is Independent Mental Health Advocacy?
Independent Mental Health Advocacy is a new type of statutory advocacy introduced in 2009. There is now a legal duty to provide Independent Mental Health Advocacy to patients who qualify under the Mental Health Act 1983.
An Independent Mental Health Advocate (an IMHA) is someone who is specially trained to work within the framework of the Mental Health Act to meet the needs of patients. Independent Mental Health Advocacy services do not replace any other advocacy and support services that are available to patients. An IMHA will work alongside these services.
Patients should be informed of their right to access an IMHA. This is the responsibility of the person who is in charge of their care at the time.
What will an IMHA do for me?
An IMHA can help you to find out about and understand:
• Your rights under the Mental Health Act 1983.
• The rights which other people, such as your relatives, have in relation to you under the Mental Health Act 1983.
• The parts of the Mental Health Act 1983 which apply to you.
• Any conditions or restrictions which apply to you.
• Any medical treatment that you are receiving or might be given.
• The reasons and legal authority for providing particular medical treatment (or proposed treatment)
• The safeguards and other requirements of the Mental Health Act 1983 which apply to your treatment.
• How you can appeal against your section.
The involvement of an IMHA does not affect your right (or the right of your nearest relative) to seek advice from a lawyer, nor does it affect your entitlement to legal aid.
Do I qualify for the support of an IMHA?
The Mental Health Act 1983 calls a patient who is eligible for an Independent Mental Health Advocate a ‘qualifying patient’.
You will be a ‘qualifying patient’ if you are:
• Detained under section 5.2 or 5.3 of the Mental Health Act, even if they are on section 17 leave from hospital.
• A conditionally discharged restricted patient.
• Subject to guardianship (section 5.7).
• Subject to a supervised community treatment order (SCT).
• An informal patient being considered for section 57 treatment (psychosurgery).
• An informal patient aged under 18 and being considered for section 58a treatment (ECT).
An IMHA will:
• Spend time with you and ask you questions to get to know your views and wishes.
• Visit you in private, if that is appropriate.
• Support you on ward rounds and attend meetings you have with the professionals involved in your care and treatment, if you would like them to.
• Visit and speak to any person who is currently professionally concerned with your treatment, provided it is for the purpose of supporting you in their role as your IMHA.