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What is Independent Mental Health Advocacy?

An IMHA is an independent advocate who is 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. Our advocates are not employed by the NHS or any private healthcare provider, and they provide free, independent and confidential support. 

The NHS and private providers

The NHS and private providers of care for patients detained under the Mental Health Act have a legal duty to provide information regarding IMHA support to all eligible people. They must also support communication and referrals for those patients who wish to use the IMHA service.

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
  • Receiving Supervised Community Treatment (SCT).
  • 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?

Being detained under the Mental Health Act can be a frightening and confusing experience. Our advocates can help you to understand:

  • The reasons for your detention and how to appeal against this detention using the Mental Health Review Tribunal process
  • Your rights under the Mental Health Act and the safeguards that apply to you
  • Any conditions or restrictions which apply to you
  • The medical treatment you are receiving or might be given
  • The requirements that would apply in connection with the treatment

Our IMHA can also support you to:

  • Access information. We can ensure that information given to you is presented in an appropriate and understandable format
  • Better understand about what is happening to you
  • Explore options and be involved in decisions about your care and treatment
  • Prepare for meetings, tribunals, Hospital Managers Hearings, CPA's and where appropriate ward rounds. We can support you in these meetings where necessary to ensure your voice is heard
  • Talk with staff and make your views known
  • Raise queries or concerns about the treatment that you are receiving

What rights do IMHAs have?

IMHAs have the right to:

  • Have access to wards and units so they can visit patients
  • See patients in private unless the patient is under close observation or in seclusion, or clinical staff advise against it for safety reasons
  • Attend meetings with staff where patients ask for this
  • Meet with and hold discussions with professionals involved in your care
  • Access relevant patient records when given permission to do so by the patient. Where patients does not have capacity to consent to an IMHA having access to their records, the record holder should allow access to the records if doing so is necessary for the IMHA to carry out their role effectively. 

Where do we provide this service?

You can find out if we provide an Independent Mental Health Advocacy in your area by clicking on the link below. If we don’t provide a service where you live, please call our Help Hub on 0300 456 2370 for information, advice and signposting to other organisations in your area who may be able to help you.

POhWER support in your area

How do I get support from an IMHA?

If you think you qualify for this service you can contact our Help Hub to refer yourself or can ask a member of the ward staff, responsible clinician, or Approved Mental Health Professional to refer you for IMHA support.

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) referral form (word version)

Please send the completed referral form to:

Email: [email protected]

Fax: 0300 456 2365
Post: PO Box 14043, Birmingham, B6 9BL


Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) leaflet (pdf)

Resources in other formats

IMHA information in other community languages

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) easy read leaflet (pdf)

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) large print leaflet (pdf)

Your Rights and the Mental Health Act booklet in easy read (pdf)

Further information:

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) in British Sign language