A Mental Health Act fit for tomorrow.
Last summer, Rethink Mental Illness was commissioned by Mental Health Alliance to conduct the largest survey into the 34 year old Act. The message from the research was clear: the Act is no longer fit for purpose and there is a growing need for it to be reformed.
The research, the first of its kind, includes the views of over 8000 people who use mental health services, carers, and professionals working in the field. Half of those who responded did not think that people are treated with dignity and respect under the Mental Health Act.
Key findings from the survey, which was developed, disseminated and analysed by Rethink Mental Illness on behalf of the Mental Health Alliance, showed that:
• 49% of respondents felt that people are not treated with dignity under the Mental Health Act
• 50% said that they would not be confident that their human rights would be protected under the Mental Health Act if they were detained under it
• 72% disagreed that the rights of people living with mental illness are protected and enforced as effectively as those for people living with a physical illness
• 86% of respondents felt that it was very important that people be allowed to specify people close to them to be involved in decisions.
Andrea has been held under the Mental Health Act. She said,
“I did not feel like my rights were respected at all when I was held under the Mental Health Act... Fairly recently I had a very bad depressive episode, but I wouldn’t go to hospital because I couldn’t cope with the idea of being sectioned again.”
This research makes a powerful and considered case for the Government to carry out a comprehensive review of the Mental Health Act. The Act is the only piece of healthcare legislation that starts from the premise that the individual is not in control – so it does not seek to maximise autonomy or decision making.
The report also show that the Government should set out clear terms of reference and a timetable for a fundamental review of the Mental Health Act, starting with a review into Community Treatment Orders, which are sometimes in place when you leave hospital but you have to meet conditions to stay in the community; and the outmoded way that the ‘nearest relative’ is allocated.
The “nearest relative” is not the same as “next of kin” and comes in a specific hierarchy starting with your spouse, then son/daughter, then father/mother etc, which means a relative you have a difficult relationship with can be given control of your health and you get no say in it. We want to see individuals being able to make their own decisions.