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Why the Mental Health Act needs to change

Monday, 03 December 2018 Charli Mitchell, Policy and Campaigns Officer

Charli Mitchell, our Policy and Campaigns Officer for Mental Health Services, tells us why the current Mental Health Act needs to change and what we are hoping to see from the Review.

Charli is the Policy and Campaigns Officers for Mental Health Services here at Mind.

Being sectioned and detained in hospital to receive mental health treatment is the most serious thing that can happen to somebody experiencing a mental health problem. Many people who end up being sectioned under the Mental Health Act (the law in England and Wales which sets out when people can be sectioned and treated in hospital for their mental health against their will) struggle to get the help they needed when they asked for it, and may be subjected to coercion and control by mental health services and the police.

"There are delays in getting help. You can ask, and ask, and ask. There’s nothing on a weekend and that’s when it gets worse."

We think that the current law around mental health treatment is outdated, doesn’t consider the views of the individual enough, and is not adapted to the cultural needs of people who are not White British. There are delays in getting help. You can ask, and ask, and ask. There’s nothing on a weekend and that’s when it gets worse.

Last year, the Government announced an independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983 (‘the Act’) which will provide recommendations on how the Act can be improved and the practices that relate to it. A report outlining these recommendations will be published in December 2018.

We have made a written submission to the Review, which sets out what recommendations we think the Review board should make to Government. Our submission draws largely upon the views and experiences of people we have heard from who have been detained under the Act.

Racial bias, lack of cultural awareness and discrimination featured heavily throughout our discussions with people, both beyond and within the mental health system. People were angry towards the disproportionate use of Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) for Black patients and the overuse of medication. We also heard a lot about the very poor standards of treatment and care, ranging from the design of the building through to lack of patient engagement and the extremely negative attitudes and behaviours from hospital staff.

"More needs to be done in hospitals, at mental health facilities. It’s like a revolving door. People in and out."

What needs to change?

We have made lots of different recommendations to better the Act, but in summary:

We believe that changes to the Act should prioritise the views of the individual who is unwell so they have a significant say in their care and treatment planning; we want everyone treated under secondary mental health services to have access to an advocate who is appropriately trained and able to work in culturally diverse settings, so that people have the support they need to express their opinions in what can be a very intimidating environment.

"We also want new rights and principles to be introduced to the Act which reference anti-discrimination and hospitality."

We know that people are often not treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve when they are in hospital, so we also want new rights and principles to be introduced to the Act which reference anti-discrimination and hospitality.

To find out more about these and our other recommendations, please read our full submission to the review here.

Although changes to the law can only play a small part in improving patient care, we hope that the Mental Health Act Review can help to increase the dignity and rights of people receiving mental health care treatment. We want to see a Mental Health Act that is person-centred, ensuring people are: listened to, informed and are able to have meaningful involvement in their care.

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