Skip navigation |

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)

What is Independent Mental Health Advocacy?

Two ladies chatting

Independent Mental Health Advocacy was introduced under the Mental Health Act 2007. From April 2009 there has been a legal duty to provide Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHAs) for all eligible people. An IMHA is an independent advocate who is specially trained to work within the framework of the Mental Health Act 1983 to support people to understand their rights under the Act and participate in decisions about their care and treatment.

Who can be supported by an IMHA?

You can receive the support of an IMHA if you are:

  • Detained under the Mental Health Act (even if you are currently on leave of absence from hospital) excluding sections 4, 5(2), 5(4), 135 or 136
  • A conditionally discharged restricted patient
  • Subject to Guardianship under the Act or
  • Are receiving Supervised Community Treatment (SCT).

You can also receive support from an IMHA if you are not covered by any of the above but are:

  • Being considered for a treatment to which section 57 applies (“a section 57 treatment”)
  • Under 18 and being considered for electro-convulsive therapy or any other treatment to which section 58A applies (“a section 58A treatment”).

How can an IMHA help me?

POhWER’s trained and qualified IMHAs can help you to understand:

  • The provisions of the legislation under which you qualify for an IMHA,
  • The rights and safeguards you are entitled to,
  • Any conditions or restrictions you are subject to,
  • The medical treatment being given, proposed or discussed and the legal authority under which this would be given,
  • The requirement that would apply in connection with the treatment,
  • Your rights under the Mental Health Act and how these can be exercised.

Our IMHA can also support you to:

  • Access information and better understand about what is happening to you,
  • Explore options, make informed decisions and actively engage with decisions,
  • Articulate your own views,
  • Participate in the decisions that are made about your care and treatment,
  • Prepare for meetings and tribunals,
  • Communicate with staff.

What rights do IMHAs have?

IMHAs have the right to:

  • Have access to wards and units on which patients are resident,
  • See patients in private unless the patient is under close observation or in seclusion, or clinical staff advise against it for reasons of the IMHA’s or the patient’s safety,
  • Attend relevant meetings with staff at the request of the patient.

How do I get support from an IMHA?

Certain people responsible for your care, such as hospital managers, have a duty to inform you about the IMHA service. Nearest relatives should also be informed unless a patient requests otherwise. If you think you qualify for this service you can contact our Independent Mental Health Advocacy service or ask a member of the ward staff, responsible clinician, or Approved Mental Health Professional to refer you for IMHA support.