The new Mental Health Act

Here’s a gem:

patients should never be treated under compulsion unless their decision making was impaired and the treatment was of therapeutic benefit.

So someone is being assessed for a mental health problem. As soon as you look at someone and you are aware that they may have a problem, you start to read things into their behaviour which may not actually exist. Just because someone says “He’s mad” is no reason to believe them is it ? Look again at that statement – all it takes is a professional to say “Yeah .. he’s not thinking straight and I’m sure <insert phrase> will help” and that person is locked up. What precisely is an impaired decision ? getting a tattoo ? Having ‘one for the road’ ? Wanting to die ? Wanting to kill ? Remember this is not a 2+2 situation – it is an interpretation by someone of another. This law will have huge ramifications and it needs to be written to support the professional AND to protect the person who is being scrutinised. Mental Health treatment has one doorway – IN. There must be a very compelling reason to push someone through that door. Right now this is just a ‘sweep them in, lock them up’ law. The way this is worded right now is terrible – and compulsive treatment ? You MUST have the tablets, you MUST have the injection, you MUST do whatever you are told – and just because someone came to you one night when things could have been a bit rough ? Bear in mind as well that the only person who can determine the therapeutic benefit of any treatment of any sort is the person on the receiving end. So the medics say it’s good and the patient disagrees. The medics say that the patient must still be mad because they can’t see the positive side, so let’s prescribe more treatment. This is a lose-lose no matter which way you want to look at it.
Rethink | Sainsbury Centre

4 thoughts on “The new Mental Health Act

  1. I agree with you for the most part. However, under the act it will not be a single person involved in the entire decision making process. In most cases the individuals GP and a “named person” (family member, friend, etc.) will be involved. That is a good thing.

    Although it is unfortunate that patients ever need to be detained, it is in some instances necessary, either for our (society) or their benefit. We never know what actions an individual will make in the future. Thus, it is imposible to prevent that some patients will not be detained unecessarily.

    It is an incredibly fine line, over a bottomless pit, to try and legislate for mental illness but it needs to be done. Hopefully, this act will improve the lives of those who are “ill�.

  2. I speak from 3 perspectives:
    – as a trained nurse who used section 5(4) to detain someone and who also has other Act involvements
    – as someone who once managed to escape being subject to a 5(2)
    – and as a user of those services now.

    While in principle the Act will state a number of people, in the very many Sectionings I saw or was part of, one person was generally the driving force and because of the blame culture, other professionals – on the whole – signed on the dotted lines. After all – there is an appeals process.

    I agree that detention is needed at times but the Act as it currently stands could literally be used for the most minor of trivialities and it must be created so that cannot happen. We must not forget that the reasoning behind this is to lock people up before they cause a problem / commit a crime and that it is the Govt that drives this – not health professionals.

    This Act will do nothing to improve the lives of people with mental health problems. MONEY will.

  3. That is a very difficult question.
    I worked with the 1983 Act for over 10 years, so I was aware not only of the text, but also it’s practical implications and ‘best practice’ guidelines. Simply to take a phrase (as I have done) and then produce conjecture (as I have done) is in many ways wrong, but we must remember that the prime motivations for this Act are two-fold:
    – to make up for the massive failings in “Care in the Community” when they shut the asylums (to use a phrase) and spent no cash on the replacement needed, and
    – to address the gaps in the 1983 Act which prevented treatment in many cases (I worked with several such cases and it was extremely frustrating seeing people dance around the Act)
    and both these are Govt led. Not professional led.
    It is politically motivated.

    As such then, ‘soundbites’ that are put out need to be leapt on and shouted about because it’s only us that can. People can affect this because you can bet that MP’s will not care.

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