Detentions under the Mental Health Act
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1. Main facts and figures
in the year to March 2019, Black people were more than 4 times as likely as White people to be detained under the Mental Health Act – 306.8 detentions per 100,000 people, compared with 72.9 per 100,000 people
out of the 16 specific ethnic groups, Black Caribbean people had the highest rate of detention out of all ethnic groups (excluding groups labelled ‘Other’)
the highest rate of detention was for people in the Black Other ethnic group, followed by those in the Mixed Other ethnic group – however, these rates are considered to be overestimates because ‘Other’ categories may have been used for people whose specific ethnicity wasn’t known
the actual rates of detention for people in the ethnic groups not labelled as ‘Other’ may be underestimated, particularly those within the Black ethnic groups
overall, it is estimated that detentions increased by 2.0% in the year to March 2019 – this is based on figures from service providers who submitted good quality data in each of the last 4 years, rather than all providers
The ethnic categories used in this data
The 16 categories used in this data are those listed in the 2001 Census, which are still used in the NHS in England.
2. By ethnicity (5 ethnic groups)
|Number per 100,000||Number per 100,000|
Summary of Detentions under the Mental Health Act By ethnicity (5 ethnic groups) Summary
3. By ethnicity (16 ethnic groups)
|Number per 100,000||Number per 100,000|
|Mixed White/Black African||193.5||188.2|
|Mixed White/Black Caribbean||149.3||177.6|
|Other including Chinese|
Summary of Detentions under the Mental Health Act By ethnicity (16 ethnic groups) Summary
The analysis uses data collected through monthly submissions made using the Mental Health Services Dataset (MHSDS). It uses data from:
version 2 of the MHSDS during the 2017 to 2018 financial year
version 3.0 of MHSDS during the 2018 to 2019 financial year
The analysis also uses Census 2011 population data for each ethnic group. In a small number of cases, a person did not have their ethnicity recorded in the dataset. This means that the ethnicity totals may not add up to the national totals.
Detentions data was incomplete from 2017 to 2018. This is because not all providers of secondary mental health and learning disabilities services provided data for all months in the year, and some providers did not submit any data at all. As a result, the counts and rates shown are lower than the true figures. However, broad comparisons between ethnic groups for a given year are valid.
From 2018 to 2019, the methodology remained the same, however improved data quality means that the actual increase in detentions is likely to be less than that reported. Trend comparisons are also affected by improving data quality. Based on the providers who submitted good quality detentions data in each of the last 3 years, we estimate there was an increase in detentions of 2% in the 2 years to March 2019. Broad comparisons between ethnic groups for a given year are still valid.
Although people from Gypsy and Arab ethnic groups are included in the population figures in the download, these groups are not separately identified in the MHSDS. This means separate rates are not available for these groups. People from an Arab background do not always identify with the same broad ethnic category – for example, they may identify as Asian or Any Other ethnic group. The way this affects the rates shown is unknown.
The ethnic groups used for rates of detention by aggregated ethnic group follow the 2001 Census groupings, which are still used in the NHS. However, the 2011 census moved 'Chinese' from the ‘Any Other’ ethnic group to ‘Asian/Asian British’. This means that figures using 2011 Census categories can’t be compared with any using 2001 Census categories for 'Any Other' and 'Asian’.
The confidence intervals for the estimate of the standardised rates per 100,000 population for each ethnic group are available in the download the data section.
The number of detentions for White British people under the Mental Health Act from 2018 to 2019 was 70.1 per 100,000 people. This is a reliable estimate, however it’s not possible to be 100% certain of the true rate of detention for this population.
It is 95% certain that the rate of detention is somewhere between 69.3 and 70.9 per 100,000 White British people. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall between this range, and 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.
The lower confidence interval is calculated by subtracting the confidence interval estimate of 0.8 from the estimate of the standardised rate of detentions. The upper confidence interval rate is calculated by adding 0.8 to the estimate.
The smaller the number of detentions, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, there were fewer detentions for Caribbean people than for White British people, so we can be less certain about the estimate of 276.5 per 100,000 for the Black Caribbean group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by the wider confidence interval of between 262.8 to 290.2 per 100,000 Black Caribbean people.
5. Data sources
Type of data
Type of statistic
Purpose of data source
The Mental Health Services Data Set (MHSDS) has information about people who are in contact with mental health, learning disabilities and autism services. It uses clinical and operational data for purposes other than direct patient care.
6. Download the data
This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, crude rate, standardised rate, denominator, numerator, confidence interval