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March 2020

Think Ahead participant shares findings of research into rising detentions under the Mental Health Act

One of Think Ahead’s alumni, Michael Bonnet, has written an article about his recently published research for Community Care, a leading social work news website.

In his article, Michael explains that the research, which has been published in the British Journal of Social Work, sought to understand why detentions under the Mental Health Act have been rising and what can be done to correct this trend. Under the Mental Health Act, people experiencing a mental illness who are deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others can be detained and treated against their wishes.

For his research, Michael and his co-author Dr Nicola Moran from the University of York sought the views of Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) on the rise in detentions. AMHPs are the professional group, mostly made up of social workers, who have the final say on whether an individual can be temporarily detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act. Michael points out that AMHPs “have traditionally been an under-represented and under-consulted resource” despite being experts on the topic.

The results showed that AMHPs involved in the study “were worried about the trend of increasing detentions” under the Mental Health Act. However, they generally disagreed with the government’s approach, which has focused on law reform.

Michael writes that AMHPs felt “that greater investment in resources would be more effective in reducing detention rates from current levels.” AMHPs involved in the study thought that investment should be directed at preventative services, for example those that help promote social inclusion, and acute services. The latter could mean making sure that alternatives to hospital – such as crisis houses – are available to those experiencing a mental health crisis.

Michael concludes that, within this context, use of the Mental Health Act “has become an overused last resort, not by design, but by necessity.”

Read the full article on Community Care.

Michael joined Think Ahead’s first intake in 2016 and completed the programme in the autumn of 2018. He conducted his research as part of Year Two of the programme, when participants work towards a master’s degree. The research was co-authored by Dr Nicola Moran from the University of York, our academic partner for Michael’s Cohort. The research project was the first by a Think Ahead participant to appear in a peer-reviewed scientific publication.

See the original research in the British Journal of Social Work (behind a paywall).