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What the role of an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA)?

An IMHA is an independent advocate who is trained in the Mental Health Act 1983 and supports 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. 

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”).

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

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, CPAs and ward rounds. An Advocate can support you in these meetings 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 you in private unless you are under close observation or in seclusion, or clinical staff advise against it for safety reasons
  • Attend meetings with staff where you ask for this
  • Meet with and hold discussions with professionals involved in your care
  • Access relevant patient records when you give your permission for this. 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. 

How do I get support from an IMHA?

If you think you qualify for this service you can click on the link below to check whether we deliver Independent Mental Health Advocacy in your area. You can ask a member of the ward staff, a responsible clinician, or an Approved Mental Health Professional to refer you for IMHA support using the form below or you can call our Help Hub on 0300 456 2370 for further help

POhWER support in your area

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 17943, Birmingham, B9 9PB


Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) leaflet (pdf)

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) rights leaflet (pdf)

Resources in other formats

IMHA information in other 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 (BSL)