Detentions under the Mental Health Act
Last updated 9 November 2020 - see all updates
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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
2. Things you need to know
What the data measures
The data measures rates of detention under the Mental Health Act 1983.
The data includes people who were detained (commonly known as ‘sectioned’) in hospital for assessment or treatment under the Act.
Detention rates are rounded to 1 decimal place.
Find out more about the Mental Health Act 1983.
Not included in the data
The data does not include detentions under Section 136 that take place in non-healthcare settings, for example police cells.
How detention rates are calculated
For each ethnic group, the detention rate is the number of detentions under the Act in healthcare services per 100,000 people in the general population.
The ethnic groups used in the data
The 16 ethnic groups shown in this data are those listed in the 2001 Census.
Read the detailed methodology document (PDF opens in a new window or tab) for the data on this page.
Detention rates for the 5 ‘Other’ ethnic groups (for example, Black Other and Any Other) may be overestimated. This is because ‘Other’ categories may have been used for people whose specific ethnicity was not known.
Similarly, rates for groups that are not ‘Other’ categories may be underestimated.
Detention rates for all ethnic groups are likely to be underestimated because not all NHS providers submitted complete data during the period covered.
Improved data quality in the year to March 2019 means that the actual increase in detentions is likely to be less than shown. Based on the NHS providers who submitted good quality data in each of the last 3 years, there was an increase in detentions of 2% in the 2 years to March 2019.
Detention rates have been adjusted to allow different ethnic groups to be compared as if they had the same age profile (the number of people of different ages within an ethnic group). As a result, the estimates do not show the actual detention rates for each ethnic group.
Detention rates are worked out using population data from the 2011 Census. Read more about problems using Census data.
In the data file
3. 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
4. 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
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