Friday, May 13, 2011

Why did the balance between the genders for psychiatric detention switch?

Kate Millett, the feminist and survivor of mental health services, at a seminar organised by Anthony Stadlen that I attended last Sunday, said that more women than men are detained in psychiatric hospital. My thought, although I did not have the figures, was that in fact more men, particularly young men, are detained because of their violence.

It seems we were both right in a way. Up to 1994-5, when Kate Millett was surviving mental health services, more women than men were formally admitted under civil procedures using the Mental Health Act in the UK. After that time more men were detained (Audini and Lelliott, 2002). And it is particularly younger men where there is the imbalance (see figure). And once admitted they tend to stay in hospital longer, as the ratio of men to women resident in hospital at any one time is even higher (see table).

There does not seem to have been much comment about this switch. Women's disadvantaged social status is commonly seen as a factor generating mental health problems, but this doesn't explain the rise in men being detained. Maybe the emphasis over recent years on risk management and accountability is responsible. Ideas please and I'd also be interested in any references in the literature as I can't easily find them.

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