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Review: Black and minority ethnic people are more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983—no clear evidence why

Statistics from

Swaran P Singh

Correspondence to: Swaran P Singh, Health Sciences Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK;



Compared with White people, how frequently are people from Black and Minority Ethnic groups detained under the Mental Health Act 1983?


Rates of compulsory detention under the Mental Health Act.



Systematic review with meta-analysis.

Data sources:

MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, ASSIA, SIGLE, HMIC, Web of Science, Cochrane database and the National Research Register; 1984 to April 2005. CD-ROM for the British National Bibliography was also searched for relevant literature.

Study selection and analysis:

English language studies relating to compulsory detention under the Mental Health Act 1983 and including terms related to mental illness or forensic psychiatry, and with inclusion of ⩾2 ethnic groups (any non-White). Odds of compulsory detention of people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups compared with White groups were combined using a fixed effects meta-analysis. Meta-regression was then used to explore reasons for heterogeneity between studies. It was based on subgroup analyses according to episode (first, second, etc), patient type (for example, civil or …

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  • Notes: The underlying studies used in the meta-analysis were of questionable quality. Researchers report that “few studies were hypothesis-driven and only 39% stated inclusion and exclusion criteria”. Meta-regression revealed a significant effect of study quality on the differences in risk between ethnic groups.

  • Source of funding: Department of Health.

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