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Calls for law change as Mental Health Act detainees taking their lives at ‘appalling’ rates

Women and girls detained under the Mental Health Act are taking their lives at “appalling” rates, new figures have revealed.

Data produced by the CQC in partnership with mental health charity Agenda found that women’s self-inflicted deaths overtook men for the first time ever in 2015 – when 20 women died compared to 15 men – and continued the trend in 2016.

Most notably were the number of suicides of young women and girls suffering with mental health issues: nine young women and girls aged under 20 died between 2010 and 2016, compared to four young men during that same period.

The news comes as the Guardian’s analysis of CQC data showed that over 220 patients killed themselves in mental health facilities over the past seven years— prompting further concerns about the treatment of mental health in patient care.

Mental health charities including Agenda are now calling for further investment in community and in-patient services, including calls for changes to the Mental Health Act to take into account women and girls’ needs and experiences— particularly those with histories of abuse.

Katharine Sacks-Jones, chief executive of Agenda, said: “It is appalling that we are seeing so many self-inflicted deaths of women and girls detained under the Mental Health Act.

“Many will have been detained precisely because they were at risk to themselves, yet the Mental Health Act is not keeping them safe and is failing to support and protect them.”

Sacks-Jones added that the Mental Health Act is “not fit for purpose” for women and girls.

“The majority of women and girls detained will have experienced violence and abuse. But the evidence suggests this is not understood or responded to appropriately, particularly when they are detained,” she commented.

“It can be no coincidence that this is the context in which so many women and girls are dying.”

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Image credit: kaipong, iStock images


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