Current Mental Health Act unfit for purpose, report finds

Based on research involving over 8,000 people who use mental health services, carers, and professionals working in the field, the report concludes that the current Mental Health Act isn't fit for purpose. Half of those who responded did not think that people are treated with dignity and respect under the Mental Health Act.

The Mental Health Alliance, made up of over 75 organisations working in the mental health sector, commissioned the research and is calling on the Government to urgently act on its promise made in the run up to the General Election to review the Act, and ensure any reform takes into account the views expressed by those people it’s there to protect.

While a majority of respondents agreed that there are circumstances when being treated against your will in hospital may be necessary, the survey reveals deep concerns that people’s dignity, autonomy and human rights are being overlooked.

Key findings from the survey showed that:

- 49% of respondents disagreed that people are 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.

The Mental Health Alliance is concerned that there are parts of the Act which are out of date. For example, if you are sectioned under the Mental Health Act, your nearest relative is contacted and given a say over your treatment and detainment. 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.

Source: National Mind

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