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Down with the Mental Health Bill January 11, 2007

Posted by Winter in human rights.
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I’m pleased to see that the Lords have rejected the new Mental Health Bill.

The bill has a strong emphasis on compulsory detention, compulsory treatment, and removes the right to advocacy. In its current form it would allow the enforced detention of people who are mentally ill, even if they have not committed any crime.

Some background from Mental Health Alliance:

“The Mental Health Bill will do little to modernise mental health law,” Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health chief executive Angela Greatley said today.

Responding to the publication of the Bill, Angela Greatley said: “Today’s proposals will disappoint service users, their families and professionals alike. They will broaden the powers of compulsion without adequate safeguards for people’s welfare. They do not address the stark race inequalities in the use of the Act and they give people no right to get treatment when they need it.

“The Mental Health Act is in clear need of reform. The Government’s own Expert Committee suggested a fair and workable way forward in 1999. Much of that is already in statute in Scotland. It is regrettable that the same framework is not planned for England and Wales.
“Being sectioned under the Mental Health Act can be a distressing event in people’s lives. It can lead to exclusion from work, from family and from a person’s community. Compulsory powers, inside or outside hospital, should only be used as a last resort and in the least restrictive way possible.

“With our partners in the Mental Health Alliance, SCMH will seek amendments to the Bill to protect those subject to supervised community treatment, to introduce advocacy for all who need it and to ensure there is a health benefit to the use of compulsory powers.”

There is more about the Bill in Policy Watch.

The government has been pushing this bill with stigmatising scare stories about the dangerous threat posed to the public by mentally ill people, citing cases where people dignosed with mental illness have committed murder. Of course this works very well to otherise mentally ill people and portray them as scary monsters roaming the streets, while distracting from the fact that most of these cases occurred as a consequence of massive failures in care.

When people are scared, they are less likely to stop and remember that any one of us could become mentally ill today and could find ourselves hospitalised. If this bill had gone through, we could have found ourselves forcibly detained, forcibly treated and denied the right to advocay.

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