What is an IMHA?

An IMHA (Independent Mental Health Advocate) is a specialist mental health advocate. Changes to the Mental Health Act meant that there is a legal duty to provide IMHA advocates for eligible people from April 2009.

The IMHA is not meant to replace existing advocacy, legal advice or support, but will work alongside them.

This service is free and confidential.

Who is entitled to an IMHA?

People will qualify for an IMHA if they are:

  • Detained under the Mental Health Act for assessment and treatment. (This does not include people detained on emergency short term sections, or detained in a place of safety).
  • Conditionally discharged restricted patients.
  • On Supervised Community Treatment Orders or Guardianship Orders.
  • Informal/voluntary patients who are discussing the possibility of serious treatment (e.g. Neurosurgery) for a 'mental disorder'. (or ECT if the person is under 18 years of age).

What can an IMHA do?

An IMHA can work alongside the detained person and:

  • Help them to get and understand information about Mental Health legislation, any conditions and restrictions on them, and their rights.
  • Help them to get information about and understand medical treatment (e.g. medication, therapies.)
  • Support them to take part in care planning.
  • Support for them to apply to, prepare for and attend Hospital Managers Hearings and Mental Health Review Tribunals and to understand the decisions that are made.
  • Discuss aftercare and access support and services.
  • Raise concerns about their experiences of care and support.

What can an IMHA do that another advocate can't?

In order to support people and with their consent the IMHA will be also be able to:

  • Visit and talk to them in private.
  • Visit and interview anyone concerned with their medical treatment (e.g. nurses or consultants).
  • Request relevant medical and social services records.

Make a Referral

To make an IMHA referral to Southern Advocacy Services, please complete the Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) Referral Form.

How will patients find
out about the service?

There is a duty on hospital managers, responsible clinicians and social services (in the case of Guardianship orders) to:

  • Inform patients about the advocacy service.
  • Take all practicable steps to ensure patients understand what is available to them and how they can access help.
  • There is also a duty for information to be given to the nearest relative of detained patients, unless patient requests otherwise.

How can someone get referred to an IMHA?

Anyone can refer to an IMHA, but IMHA's must respond to requests to visit an eligible person if the request comes from the person themselves, their nearest relative, the responsible clinician or an approved mental health professional.

The person can choose whether or not to work with an IMHA when they have visited.

Remember, working with an IMHA does not affect the right to seek legal advice, or any entitlement there may be to legal aid. It does not prevent people from working with another advocate, but other advocates do not have the same rights and duties as an IMHA.

Southern Advocacy Services provides IMHA services in:
Isle of Wight

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