KeepHealthCare.ORG – Report finds ‘serious issues’ with use of Mental Health Act | Society
People with serious mental illness are suffering neglect and discrimination when they have been detained for treatment, according to a report ordered by Theresa May.
Too many of those sectioned under the Mental Health Act receive a lack of dignity and respect from staff, according to the review of legislation, which has identified a series of problems with it.
“People with the most severe forms of mental illness have the greatest needs and continue to be the most neglected and discriminated against”, said Prof Sir Simon Wessely, who chaired the review.
The prime minister commissioned the inquiry into the operation of the act after she vowed during last year’s election campaign to “rip up” what she called “flawed” legislation that was leading to too many people being locked up. The “discriminatory use of a law passed more than three decades ago” is a key reason why May sees inadequate provision of mental health care as one of the “burning injustices”.
Wessely, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has found that disproportionate numbers of black people are being sectioned and have the worst experience while in detention.
His interim report states: “Experience of people from black African and Caribbean heritage are particularly poor and they are detained more than any other group. Too often this can result in police becoming involved at time of crisis. The causes of this disparity are complex.”
There were almost 64,000 detentions in England in 2016, 9% more than the year before. Numbers have risen 47% since 2005-06, leading to concern that too many people were being sectioned. Psychiatrists section people they judge to be a risk to themselves or others. Detainees are often suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or a personality disorder.
Many people interviewed by Wessely’s team believe that being detained was the best thing for them; some said it saved their life and prevented suicide. However, an almost equal number of people did not believe detention had been the right approach for them.
“We have heard time and time again service users raise serious issues about the manner in which they were previously detained under the MHA and the circumstances of their stay in hospital,” the report said.
Recent research by Rethink Mental Illness found that many people who had been sectioned “felt imprisoned [and] not cared for, because they had minimal involvement in their care and their choices were disregarded … [and felt] a complete loss of any sense of control over their lives”.
Danielle Hamm, the charity’s associate director of campaigns and policy, said: “This landmark review confirms what we have long known: that there are serious problems with the Mental Health Act. Those severely affected by mental illness, such as people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, who are more likely to be held under the act, have been dramatically underserved.”
Prof Wendy Burn, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Changing legislation alone isn’t enough to improve the lives of people with mental illness, and the report rightly recognises this. Improving mental health services depends on the right number of well-trained staff and the right resources to meet the needs of patients, their families and carers.”