• Heather Paterson

It's The Legislation That's Mental

Updated: Mar 25, 2019

Well another day and another loss of human rights and civil liberties.

The House of Lords finally approved the Mental Health Bill on Tuesday. Ministers have insisted it is necessary to get people with severe disorders off the streets, even if there is no treatment available.

Now for those of you who are not aware of exactly what the Mental Health Bill is all about, this is what has just been approved:

The bill will enable people to be forcibly treated against their will.

Community Treatment Orders (Psychiatric ASBOs) will force people to take medicine they do not want at home and could restrict where they live and what they can do. Community Treatment Orders are used in New Zealand, Australia and 38 states in the US, where they have provoked controversy. A US study published in 2005 on the Cochrane Database concluded it would take 85 CTOs to prevent one readmission and 238 to prevent one arrest. It is hard to imagine another group where so many people have their liberty curtailed to avoid a single hospital admission or arrest.

The definition of mental illness will be broadened to include people with personality disorders, who under the current law cannot be forced into hospital. This means that the laws will apply not only to those with severe mental illnesses but also to those suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, or even those seeking gender reassignment / sex change procedures.

Increased powers will be given to non-medical staff, such as nurses and occupational therapists, to keep people in hospital against their will.

One of the largest arguments used for bringing in the Mental Health Act is the prevention of violence, despite the fact that less than four percent of homicides are committed by those with a mental illness (and even within those it is often due to lack of service provision due to funding cuts). What are the government proposing by means of preventing the other 96%. (Maybe we should just lock up everyone ?!).

The existing mental health system is already severely flawed and this bill will do nothing to improved the situation. A recent study by charity Young Minds found that "one child every day is admitted to an adult mental health ward under section; that more than three-quarters of girls are detained on mixed-sex wards; that the average stay is at least one month; and that children face a postcode lottery over beds." Surely these are the issues we should be looking at rather than forcing more people onto psychiatric wards.

Now while you may think that this will never apply to you, according to the Mental Health Foundation 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year. So this bill probably WILL affect you, and if you are one of the fortunate minority to never suffer any mental health problems, then it will affect someone that you know.

So now in the name of The War Against Terror we can detain people indefinitely without reason, under the new Mental Health Act we will be able to detain people forcible in psychiatric wards without their permission . . .

Has the police state missed anyone ?

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