An Advocate

Mental Health Advocates work with individuals experiencing mental health problems and their relatives to make sure their views are taken into account when important decisions need to be made.

Different kinds of advocates offer different kinds of support.

Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA)

IMCAs support people when they lack capacity to make specific decisions about their treatment that need to be made, and have nobody else (non-paid) willing and able to represent their interests.

They are independent from the NHS and local authorities – but the clinical team decides when an IMCA is needed. You cannot get one directly.

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)

IMHAs are available to anyone detained in a secure mental health setting under the Mental Health Act.

They can also be accessed by people:

  • provisionally discharged from hospital
  • on a supervised Community Treatment Order
  • voluntary patients considering serious medical treatment for a mental health condition

Care Act Advocacy

Your relative may be entitled to an advocate under the new Care Act if they have difficulty in following the process of needs assessment and care planning, and there is no-one else appropriate and available to support them and represent their wishes.

If you are involved in supporting them, but you disagree with the local authority about the care being provided, then you may all agree that an advocate should be involved to represent the wishes of your relative.

As a carer you have the same entitlement to advocacy as your relative/friend. Many carers (and health professionals) are not aware of this.

The following link provides more detail on how to access an advocate:

Community Advocacy

In some areas, advocacy services are available for free to help with all kinds of situations, including supporting relatives of people with mental health problems negotiate mental health services.

Despite high demand for community advocates, funding cuts have led to closing of many advocacy services.

For more useful information, please click on the following links:

Check the Resource Directory for more services in your area


  • Ask the REACT GROUP for information about local advocates