Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Campaigning on the Mental Health Bill

A good example of some of the exaggerations that are being put about concerning the Government's plans form the website for 'Black Information Link' with my comments added in parentheses.

"The Bill includes provision to:

- allow anyone to be detained and medicated against their will even if they will not benefit from treatment.

Not true. The law will broadly operate as now. To be detained to hospital you have to have a serious mental health problem which is not amendable to treatment by your GP, local community mental health and home treatment teams. An appropriate treatment will have to be available.

- allow anyone can be forcibly medicated against their will within their homes.

Absolutely not true. There is no provision for forcible treatment in people's homes unless in emergency situations. People who have been discharged from hospital under Supervised Community Treatment (a small number of people as opposed to "anyone") are amenable to being brought back to hospital if unwell and given medication.

- allow practitioners to restrict the lifestyle and behaviour of those anyone who has had contact with the services.

Not true, though the wording used by the Government in the legislation has led to some confusion and would benefit from being clarified. There are, though, no plans to restrict people's lifestyle and behaviour.

- Extend doctors powers to detain patients against their will to other professions

Not true. Only certain doctors will be able to detain (as now) under the Mental Health Act. The Bill will, however, allow other professionals (only if they meet cartain competencies) to be the responsible clinician, allowing them to renew detention (subject to certain safeguards). This will allow people to move away from the medical model of psychiatry where everyone has to be under the care of a Consultant Psychiatrist, but, if approriate (and perhaps with a degree of patient choice) have a nurse, Occupational Therapist or Psychologist as their responsible clinician.

I think it is really good that the Government has to justify any proposals in the field of mental health law and that there is the widest possible degree of involvement and criticism from community groups and, yes, in some areas the Government needs to reflect and seek ways of improving the legislation.

However it is most unfortunate that some campaigners (no doubt with the very best of intnetions) are proceeding by means of half truth and exaggeration to raise fear and anxiety around the proposed legislation, making sensible criticism and debate almost impossible and seeking to create long term mistrust of mental health services which can only be harmful in the long run.