Detentions under the Mental Health Act

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • in the year to March 2021, black people were almost 5 times as likely as white people to be detained under the Mental Health Act – 344 detentions per 100,000 people, compared with 75 per 100,000 people
  • black African people had the highest rate of detention out of all ethnic groups (excluding groups labelled ‘Other’)
  • the lowest detention rates were in the Chinese (60 per 100,000), white Irish (67 per 100,000), Indian (70 per 100,000) and white British (72 per 100,000) ethnic groups
  • overall, it is estimated that detentions increased by 4.5% in the year to March 2021 – this is based on figures from service providers who submitted good quality data in each of the last 5 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 (or ‘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

Data is shown for the 16 ethnic groups used in the 2001 Census.

Methodology

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 groups labelled ‘other’ may have been used for people whose 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.

The headline detention figures for the year to March 2021 are 4.6% higher than the figures for the previous year. However, improved data quality in the year to March 2021 means that the actual increase in detentions is likely to be less than shown. Based on the providers who submitted good quality data in each of the last 5 years, there was an increase in detentions of 4.5% between the year to March 2020 and the year to March 2021.

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

See Download the data for confidence intervals for each ethnic group. Find out more about how confidence intervals are used to determine how reliable estimates are.

3. By ethnicity (5 ethnic groups)

Number of detentions under the Mental Health Act per 100,000 people, by aggregated ethnic group (standardised rates)
Ethnicity 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Number per 100,000 Number per 100,000 Number per 100,000
Asian 103 105 105
Black 307 322 344
Mixed 233 214 222
White 73 73 75
Other 173 196 210

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity (5 ethnic groups)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity (5 ethnic groups)’ (CSV)

Summary of Detentions under the Mental Health Act By ethnicity (5 ethnic groups) Summary

The data shows that:

  • black people were most likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act in the year to March 2021, with 344 detentions per 100,000 people
  • the next highest rate of detention was for people in the mixed ethnic group – 222 detentions per 100,000 people
  • white people had the lowest rate of detention – 75 detentions per 100,000 people
  • overall, it is estimated that detentions increased by 4.5% in the year to March 2021 – this is based on figures from service providers who submitted good quality data in each of the last 5 years, rather than all providers

4. By ethnicity (16 ethnic groups)

Number of detentions under the Mental Health Act per 100,000 people, by individual ethnic group (standardised rates)
Ethnicity 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Number per 100,000 Number per 100,000 Number per 100,000
Asian
Bangladeshi 142 136 141
Indian 71 72 70
Pakistani 118 121 113
Asian other 134 136 147
Black
Black African 222 232 291
Black Caribbean 277 276 287
Black other 728 811 764
Mixed
Mixed White/Asian 82 94 101
Mixed White/Black African 188 198 269
Mixed White/Black Caribbean 178 195 172
Mixed other 474 369 390
White
White British 70 71 72
White Irish 75 70 67
White other 141 147 149
Other including Chinese
Chinese 52 54 60
Any other 411 468 502

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity (16 ethnic groups)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity (16 ethnic groups)’ (CSV)

Summary of Detentions under the Mental Health Act By ethnicity (16 ethnic groups) Summary

The data shows that:

  • black African people had the highest rate of detention out of all ethnic groups (excluding groups labelled ‘other’), with 291 detentions per 100,000 people in the year ending March 2021
  • the highest rates of detention were for the black other, any other, and mixed other ethnic groups – however, these rates are considered to be overestimates because ‘other’ categories may have been used for people whose specific ethnicity was not 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
  • the lowest detention rates were for the Chinese (60 detentions per 100,000 people), white Irish (67 per 100,000), Indian (70 per 100,000) and white British (72 per 100,000) ethnic groups – these 4 groups also had the lowest detention rates in the previous 3 years

5. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

NHS Digital

Publication frequency

Yearly

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

Detentions under the Mental Health Act - Spreadsheet (csv) 9 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, crude rate, standardised rate, numerator, denominator, confidence interval