Government inquiry into homicide and suicide shows need for a very different Mental Health Bill, says Mental Health Alliance
Posted Monday 4 December 2006
The Government's National Confidential Inquiry shows that its approach to the Mental Health Act is deeply flawed and misguided, the Mental Health Alliance said today.
Responding to the report by Professor Louis Appleby, Andy Bell, chair of the coalition of 78 organisations working together for a better Mental Health Act said:
"Homicides by people with mental health problems are tragic events. But the Government's ill-advised plans to change mental health legislation will do nothing to improve these numbers, and could indeed be counterproductive. The sad fact is that so many of these incidents could have been prevented if people had been given the help they needed, when they needed it. Time and again in these cases we have seen people begging for help before they committed a crime, only to be turned away. It is mental health services, more than mental health law, which need our attention.
There is no lack of compulsion in current legislation. Mental health law is one of the most powerful legal tools there is - people can already be detained, and treated against their will if necessary, if doctors suspect there is any danger.
The myth is that the move to community-based care is behind these incidents, but that is absolutely not the case. The number of homicides by people with mental health problems has not changed since the 1950s and the days of asylums, even as the overall murder rate has increased significantly.
The report gives no support for the contention that people who cannot benefit from mental health treatment should be detained nor that extending compulsion in the community would make any difference. There is no evidence from any other country that uses community treatment orders that they make the public any safer.
What it shows is that people with mental health problems should have a right to treatment when they or their families ask for it and that care planning must be far better. Extending the use of compulsion will not make the public safer - giving people access to better services that treat them with respect would. The Mental Health Bill must be amended so that it is based on sound evidence."
The Mental Health Alliance is a unique coalition of 78 organisations from across the mental health spectrum and beyond. We're working together to secure better mental health legislation for England and Wales. www.mentalhealthalliance.org.uk