Mental health network

Mental Health Alliance report outlines Mental Health Act concerns

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The Mental Health Alliance, a coalition of 65 organisations including the Mental Health Network, has published a new report on the Mental Health Act highlighting concerns that the Act overlooks the dignity and human rights of people with mental illness.

The report, A Mental Health Act fit for tomorrow, led by Rethink Mental Illness on behalf of the Alliance, includes the views of over 8000 people who either use mental health services or work in the field as carers and professionals. 

The research reveals support for the Act’s main purpose – a majority agreed that it is sometimes necessary to treat someone in hospital against their wishes and restrict their human rights for their own or others’ safety. However, the survey also suggested that Community Treatment Orders, seclusion, and physical restraint are used too readily in some mental healthcare settings when respondents believe they should only be used as a last resort.

Key findings from the survey showed that:

  • 49% disagreed that people are treated with dignity under the Mental Health Act 
  • 50% would not be confident that their human rights would be protected, should they be detained under the Mental Health Act
  • 72% disagreed that the rights of people living with mental illness are protected as well as the rights of people with a physical illness 
  • 86% of respondents felt it was very important that people are allowed to choose people close to them to be involved in decisions

The Alliance urges the Government to take action on promises made before the General Election to review the Act, and to ensure that views expressed by the people the Act is there to protect are taken into account in any reform. They also call for clear terms of reference and a timetable for a review, as well as further consultative research with those most affected by the Act before new legislation is drafted.

The Mental Health Alliance members work together to advocate fair implementation of the Mental Health Act and secure better mental health legislation. 
You can read the report in full here

Following the publication of this report the Queen’s Speech took place and within this the Government outlined its commitment to “reform mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised in the National Health Service in England”. The Alliance’s report is very timely and evidences why it is essential to get under the skin of the current legislation before proceeding with a new Bill.

Sean Duggan, CEO of the Mental Health Network said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to prioritising mental health and the planned reform of mental health legislation which is much needed. The Mental Health Act has played an important role in supporting people who have reached the point of crisis, but it is nearly 35 years old and clearly needs refreshing. 

“It would have been a mistake to scrap it and start from scratch without undertaking a full review. So we support the proposal for reform and in particular identifying why the number of detentions under the act have risen by around 10 per cent year-on-year since 2010/11.”

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