Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/367/6022
Mental Health Bill
A Danger To Us All
THE MENTAL health charity Mind believes that if the new mental health bill becomes law, it will: "Seriously restrict the rights, the choices and the well-being of millions of people - while failing to provide the improved public safety its supporters claim."
Lucy Edwards, Bristol
The draft Mental Health Bill is inspired by the murder of Jonathon Zito by a released patient in 1992.
The general emphasis is placed upon the power to detain people considered to pose a 'serious threat' to the safety of others. No crime needs to be committed, the presumption that there is a threat and the view that an individual has a 'mental disorder' being enough to implement the detention.
The criteria for assessing that a person has a 'mental disorder' is very broad and could probably encompass the majority of Britain's population at some time in their lives. The proposed bill implies that more powers are needed to protect communities from potentially violent psychopaths but mentally ill people are in fact much more likely to become victims of crime rather than perpetrators.
People will live in fear of being locked up and will be disinclined to seek help for their illness due to lack of trust in a system that could quite easily see them detained.
As a result, many will hang on until their illness manifests itself in more serious ways, thus increasing the likelihood that they could be detained. There will be an increased stigma of mental illness, further alienating an already extremely vulnerable section of society.
How can these proposals be implemented in an impoverished mental health system? Already people who want to stay in hospital are being sent home and many more wait for assessment or treatment that does not seem to materialise. What will be the implications for those patients who voluntarily seek help, unless much more money is put into this poor relation of the National Health Service?
If there were adequate provisions for people with mental health problems, if they had a legal right to expect to be offered assessment and treatment on request and if people were properly supported in the community, there would be no need for the draconian measures proposed in the Bill.
People should never be criminalised or otherwise penalised for being unwell. People with mental health problems should be embraced as valid members of society, the vast majority of whom have skills and qualities to offer.
People need help to enable them to contribute to society and to lead normal productive lives, not enforced treatment and liberty-threatening sanctions.
- The deadline for objections to the Bill is 31 October. Telephone Mind on 0208 2152223 for an information pack and see: www.mind.org.uk
"WHEN NEW Labour withdrew the Mental Health Bill two years ago mental health organisations hoped that this was because the government had responded to the universal opposition to the Bill. The new Mental Health Bill shows that they did not.
Clare Wilkins, Birmingham
"The provision for compulsory treatment was one of the most controversial aspects of the original bill. Compulsion remains the key element of the new bill."
In The Socialist 23 October 2004:
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