No Voice, No Choice - Making the Act person centred
While awareness of mental illness has been on the increase in the past decade, the thirty year old legislation designed to protect people with mental illness has remained woefully unchanged. Today Rethink Mental Illness, together with Adelphi Research UK, have released a new report on how we can make the Act more person centred and fit for the future. In this blog, Will from our campaigns team looks at the report findings.
Being detained under Mental Health Act shouldn’t mean that you lose your dignity or the chance to have a say in your care and treatment. However, our new report on people’s experiences of being detained under the Act shows that all too often this is the case.
The people we spoke to who have been detained under the Mental Health Act told us that:
- They felt imprisoned, not cared for, because they had minimal involvement in their care and their choices were disregarded.
- They thought that people should have the right to select someone they think is suitable to be involved in their care. The law doesn’t currently allow this choice. The outdated Nearest Relative mechanism says who can be involved.
- They were not always aware of the option to make and record Advance Decisions regarding their care. These can be helpful for people to make choices about treatment in advance, but can also be overridden by clinicians.
This must change.
Our research found that there is a feeling that detention under the Mental Health Act takes a standard, ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach with little focus on the individual needs and circumstances of people who are detained.
Many service users described their experiences with the Act as similar to being imprisoned rather than being cared for, with a complete loss of any sense of control over their lives.
“I was reflecting back on it and I realised how weird it was that I had to earn back my shoes. I can’t stress enough how little things make a difference when there’s a few key people involved in your care and they don’t have your best interests at heart.”
We believe that choice, involvement and control are vital principles that should be at the heart of the care people who are detained under Mental Health Act receive. Our work to deliver this vision will continue until it becomes a reality.
We’ll be working hard to make sure that the ongoing Independent Review of the Mental Health Act recognises these issues, and we’ll use the findings of this report to continue to call for legislative and practical change.
We’ll be working to make sure that clinicians and hospitals can implement practical changes where they can. The knowledge and expertise we gained from this project and the ideas that emerged will be used to develop materials which enhance choice and involvement for people who are detained.
Our previous work on the Mental Health Act
This research builds on earlier work conducted by Rethink Mental Illness on behalf of the Mental Health Alliance, on the principles behind the Mental Health Act, when we surveyed over 8,000 people connected to the Mental Health Act.
This report told us that people didn’t always feel like they were treated with dignity and respect when detained under the Act. Many people felt they should be able to make choices about the sort of care they receive in advance, and these should be respected.
The research we’re launching today, conducted with the help of Adelphi Research UK, shows what could be done to improve the Act itself, and to change clinical practice and culture without changing the law.
The stories of people with experience of the Mental Health Act are making a difference to the law, and to everyone severely affected by mental illness. If you’ve been detained under the Act, or cared for someone who has, please share your story with us so we can campaign for change.
On Friday the 20th of April, Rethink Mental Illness published the ‘No Voice, No Choice’ report on this web page. A minor error was found on the report very shortly after publication. That version was posted for 2 hours on the site. The earlier version of the report was removed and the corrected version was then posted on the site later that day.