What is Independent Mental Health Advocacy?
Independent Mental Health Advocacy was introduced in April 2009 as part of changes made to the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended in 2007). From the 1st April 2009 Family Welfare has been contracted to provide Independent Mental Health Advocacy, which is a statutory right for people detained under specific sections of the Mental Health Act. An Independent Mental Health Advocate, (IMHA) is a qualified and experienced Advocate who supports people to understand their care and treatment and works to ensure that people’s rights under the Mental Health Act are upheld.
I cannot praise them highly enough and would recommend them, without hesitation, to anybody who needed them. Thanks so much.
An IMHA’s role is to support those who are detained under a section of the Mental Health Act, to access and understand information relating to their detainment. The IMHA will work with the client to help them to understand their rights under the Act, the rights of others, e.g. their nearest relative and the parts of the Act that apply to them. Clients may be subject to certain conditions and restrictions under the act and the IMHA will strive to explore these areas with their client, as well as enabling the individual to gain an awareness of the medical treatment they are receiving or may start to receive. When someone is detained in hospital they may not understand or agree with the reasons for the treatment they are receiving and it is part of an IMHA’s role to discuss these reasons for treatment with their client and (if instructed by the client) to challenge this treatment or support them to appeal against their section.
An IMHA will support people who qualify for this support based on certain criteria. Those that qualify are people detained on the following sections: Section 2, Section 3, Section 7 Guardianship, individuals considered for Section 57a treatment, those under 18 being considered for Section 58a treatment, conditionally discharged restricted patients and people receiving supervised community treatment.
An IMHA can support qualifying people to speak up and get their voices heard in situations such as ward rounds with their psychiatrist and during Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) meetings. This is with the person present or with permission in their absence. They will also support the client to raise concerns about their care and treatment and to attend the Tribunal (formerly Mental Health Review Tribunal) and Hospital Manager’s Hearings.
Qualifying people will also be supported by the IMHA to access notes and records in relation to their detention, care and treatment and an IMHA can access these notes themselves if permissible by the client. Also an IMHA can offer their support to appoint a solicitor to the client when necessary.
An IMHA has a duty to comply with any reasonable request to see a qualifying person made by:
- The qualifying person themselves (i.e. self-referral)
- The nearest relative
- An Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) who is acting on behalf of the Local Social Services or The Responsible Clinician.
All names and key details have been changed, to protect the client’s right to confidentiality.
Photographs shown are also not representative of the actual person.
Mr Collins is a 35 year old gentleman self-referred for IMHA support, who was placed under Guardianship of the Mental Health Act with a diagnosis of depression and learning disability. He had lost confidence in his social worker and contacted Family Welfare for help. He felt the Guardianship was restrictive and like a stigma attached to him. He also expressed his unhappiness with his treating psychiatrist and his struggle with appointments as they were in a different borough. He added that he was ready to move on and begin a relationship with his partner but did not wish to marry whilst under Guardianship.
How our IMHA Advocate helped
The IMHA reiterated his legal rights. He was unsure of his benefit entitlements and was referred to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau for their assistance in applying for benefits. The IMHA supported him throughout the process and made an appeal to the Tribunal. It was important for his voice to be heard. The Tribunal ruled in his favour, removing the Guardianship. Social services arranged to transfer his medical care locally. He was very happy with the outcome and was grateful for all the support he received from us.