Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)

People who are treated under the Mental Health Act now have the right to independent mental health advocacy (IMHA). This applies to hospital patients and those who are on a Supervised Community Treatment. In Suffolk the IMHA service is provided by VoiceAbility Suffolk.

If you are on a section, you can choose whether or not to have the help of an IMHA. If you do decide to work with an IMHA, he or she can only act with your permission.

How does an IMHA from VoiceAbility Suffolk help?

An IMHA is not a member of the medical or social care team, and plays no part in your treatment and care.

As an independent advocate, your IMHA's first loyalty is to you. These are some of the ways in which an IMHA might help you:

  • by providing information about your treatment - why are you having it, and how long it might last. This could involve looking at your medical or social care records
  • by finding out whether any conditions or restrictions apply to you, for example if you have section 17 leave or a Supervised Community Treatment Order
  • by meeting with a mental health professional involved in your care
  • by supporting you at a ward round or care review
  • by supporting you at a Mental Health Act Tribunal (you also have the right to legal help from a solicitor)
  • by helping you to make a formal complaint about your treatment

Your IMHA will not tell you what he or she thinks is right for you, but help you to decide what you want to do. He or she will act only on your instructions, and will support you for as long as it takes for your questions to be answered and your concerns heard.

How can I contact an IMHA?

To request the help of an IMHA, you can contact your local VoiceAbility Suffolk office yourself. Alternatively a member of your care team or your family can contact us on your behalf.

A member of the VoiceAbility Suffolk staff will then contact you within two working days or receiving the call, to arrange to meet you.