Dorset Mental Health Advocacy Service
Independent Mental Health Act Advocacy (IMHA)

covering Dorset, Poole and Bournemouth

Changes to our service due to the Coronavirus situation

Due to the impact of Coronavirus and advice from the UK government, the advocacy service staff are working from home. The service is still open and you are welcome to get in touch in the usual way.

If you are calling please leave a message on our answerphone, your message will be then picked up remotely by a member of our team and you will receive a call back - if you could leave us details of your availability for a return call that would be helpful.

These are tough and worrying times for us all and if you do contact us we will do our very best to help.

Independent Mental Health Act Advocacy (IMHA)

The service is a free and confidential service for any adult or young person who is subject to the Mental Health Act 1983.

What is an Independent Mental Health Advocate?

An Independent Mental Health Act Advocate (IMHA) is an advocate who is specially trained to work with any adult or young person who is subject to the Mental Health Act 1983. This means most people who are detained or 'sectioned' under the Act. You can also get help from an IMHA if you are a conditionally discharged restricted patient; or subject to Guardianship under the Act; or under a Supervised Community Treatment Order (STO).

If you are an 'informal' patient you will also be eligible for help from an IMHA if you are being considered for serious treatment, such as neurosurgery for a mental disorder, or ECT if you are under 18 years old.

Our IMHAs are completely separate from the NHS and Social Services, they work for the Dorset Mental Health Forum, an independent charity.

How can an IMHA help you?

An IMHA can help you obtain information and understanding about:

  • The parts of the Mental Health Act 1983 which apply to you and what they mean.
  • Your rights under the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • The rights that other people (such as your nearest relative) have under the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • Any conditions or restrictions that may apply to you.
  • Any medical treatment you are receiving or which is being proposed for you.

An IMHA can also help you by exercising your rights, including:

  • How you can appeal about your detention under the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • Support you in putting forward your views and wishes at ward rounds and other meetings, such as Manager's meetings and Tribunals.
  • Speak on your behalf and represent you at meetings.
  • Help you access other appropriate support services.
  • Help you obtain suitable support for when you leave hospital.

General Mental Health Advocacy

We provide a community based advocacy service for anyone over 18 years of age experiencing mental health problems.

Our Advocacy service can:

  • Help you understand your rights and options.
  • Help you access the services you need.
  • Help you to get your voice heard at meetings, tribunals, case conferences, appeals etc.
  • Help you find expert advice and liaise with official agencies.
  • Help you to make complaints and challenge decisions that affect you.
  • Help you to find ways to solve specific problems in your life.
  • Help you to develop your own skills and confidence in dealing with particular issues.

Our Advocacy service cannot:

  • Provide financial support or benefits.
  • Offer counselling, befriending or long term support.
  • Take on specific work that can be more appropriately provided by another agency.
  • Provide treatment, medical advice or legal advice.
  • Offer relationship counselling or mediation.

How to contact us

We have an open referral system for both IMHA and general Mental Health Advocacy. You can contact us directly yourself or ask a friend, relative, nurse, OT or anyone else who is helping you to do this for you.

To contact us, telephone the Dorset Mental Health Forum Advocacy Service on 01305 261483 or email us at

Don't worry if you get through to our voicemail, all our messages are picked up and you will receive a reply.