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UK Government's Mental Health Act response is welcome but misses opportunity to address racism

Friday, 16 July 2021 Mind

Nearing three years has passed since the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, which made a series of recommendations to UK Government to overhaul this outdated legislation which allows people with mental health problems to be held against their will (‘sectioned’) in certain circumstances. The UK Government published its White Paper asking people to give their views on reforms to the Act.

Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind says:

“We’re pleased the UK Government have published their response to the public consultation of the Mental Health Act White Paper– listening to the views of people with experiences of the Act. Taking forward proposals for new legislation which will give people greater rights to make decisions about their treatment, a choice of who can represent them and better access to an advocate. The UK Government has rightfully recognised it needs to do more to make sure the proposals also work effectively for children and young people experiencing a mental health crisis. These reforms cannot come soon enough.

“It is exasperating and shocking however that the report completely fails to acknowledge the structural and institutional racism pervading the Mental Health Act. The report fails to outline how it will address the systemic racism that results in disproportionate detentions and the use of humiliating and life-threatening practices among people from certain racialised communities. Too many people - especially Black men - have died as a result of use of physical and chemical restraint while under the Act and Community Treatment Orders are 10 times more likely to be used on Black people.

“When someone is having a mental health crisis, they may be suicidal, self-harming or in psychosis, and feeling very frightened or distressed. At the very least, their loved ones should be able to trust that they will be kept safe and are treated with dignity and care they deserve and need – by the services there to protect them. Further work on reforming the Act must be done, so new legislation can be introduced as soon as possible – with additional funding attached, to make sure people can get the support they need when at crisis point."

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