Charity urges public to have their say on proposed mental health laws

Leading Hampshire mental health charity Solent Mind is urging the public to take part in a public consultation, following government plans to make key changes to the UK’s Mental Health Act.

The Act, which has been British law since 1983, describes the how and when someone with a mental health issue might be detained in hospital if they are a danger to themselves or others.

Someone who is detained in the UK can often be described as ‘being sectioned’, because of sections within the Act describe the circumstances and rights of their hospitalisation.

Published this month, the government’s new White Paper reflects on changes recommended by a 2017 panel, led by those living with mental health issues, academics, NHS clinicians and campaigners from organisations such as Mind.

The paper contains several reforms to issues raised by the panel, such as giving legal weight to people’s choices about their treatment, as well as better promoting ways to safely and lawfully support someone within their community. There are also simple changes, such as being able to choose a friend of family member who can be involved in their loved one’s care.

Malcom Barrett, Director of Quality and Improvement at Solent Mind, says: “As the Mental Health Act is now 36 years old, there are elements of it that bear little resemblance to how we need to support people in modern times.

“We’re pleased with the concessions the government have made, however there are still other issues to explore further. People who live with a learning disability whilst experiencing a mental health issue, face particular difficulties navigating law and treatment options. We also need to see a review of the use of restraint, which is often disproportionally experienced by Black men.”

The white paper is now open to an online public consultation, which draws to a close on 21st April 2021. Solent Mind is now urging people to come forward and share their views. Malcolm continues: “We need the views of people with their own lived experiences of mental health issues, or supporting someone who does, to be at the heart of our country’s mental health laws. We’re asking the public, especially those from all kinds of diverse backgrounds, to spend some time reading the proposals and get online to have your say.”

The charity has summarised the proposals and what they might mean for people with mental health issues in an online blog, found here.

Readers can read the paper here, and access the online consultation here.

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