Mental health act overhaul to allow sectioned people to choose family to represent them

People who are detained under the Mental Health Act will be given a greater say over how they are treated, and allowed to nominate someone to represent them in the biggest overhaul of mental health laws in 40 years.

A Government white paper, which will reform the Mental Health Act 1983,  will give people a greater voice in their treatment, officials said, allowing people to express their views on their care.

The draft law will also allow them to nominate someone who can represent them in dealings with the authorities.

There will also be measures to address the disproportionate number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people who are detained under the existing law.

Black people are over four times more likely to be detained under the Act, and ten times more likely to be put on a Community Treatment Order.

The Mental Health Act can be applied to force people to undergo treatment for a mental health condition without their consent, and even detain people for treatment to take place, a process known as "sectioning".

There were almost 50,000 detentions in 2018 – an increase of 47 per cent in the past decade. Campaigners have long complained that there are too few safeguards in the current system.

In case you missed it

The review of the legislation comes after Prof Sir Simon Wessely, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, published a review of the Mental Health Act for Theresa May’s government in late 2018.

Mrs May then made tackling mental health issues a priority of her administration. Downing Street said then that it wanted to "overhaul the Mental Health Act to make it fit for modern society".

Nadine Dorries, the Mental Health minister, told The Telegraph last night: “The Mental Health Act was introduced in 1983 and has remained relatively unchanged for the last 40 years.

"Our views and understanding of severe mental illness have changed drastically in that time.

“By bringing the Mental Health Act into the 21st century, we will ensure patient voice is where it should be, at the centre of care by proposing changes that enable patients to express their wishes and preferences over their care before they reach a crisis point, especially those from BAME backgrounds.

“There is support out there, whoever you are and whatever your situation. While I know there is still much to do, this government is determined to expand and transform mental health services. For anyone needing support, you are not alone. Please, reach out.”

Numbers to call

Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We welcome the Government’s decision to publish a Mental Health Act White Paper, which had been promised ever since the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act two years ago. 

"This is an incredibly important step. We hope to see the recommendations of the Review implemented in full, especially in relation to preventing trauma, and addressing racial discrimination within the mental health system.

“Real reform of the Mental Health Act would reflect changing public attitudes, protect human dignity, combat racism, honour patient choice and put restraint and healing at heart of how we respond to mental distress.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *