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Recommendations to overhaul outdated legislation has, after more than two years, been responded to by the government

Over two years ago, the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act made a number of recommendations in regards to sectioning, where people with mental health problems are held against their will in certain circumstances. The legislation was viewed as outdated and didn’t take into account a number of factors.

The government has now published their response in a White Paper, opening a public consultation process for people to give their views on reforms to the act. In response to the White Paper, Director of External Relations at Mind Sophie Corlett says they are pleased the government has accepted the majority of the recommendations.

“This is just the beginning of what is now a long overdue process.

“At the moment, thousands of people are still subjected to poor, sometimes appalling, treatment, and many will live with the consequences far into the future. Our understanding of mental health has moved on significantly in recent decades but our laws are rooted in the 19th century. Change on the ground cannot come soon enough.”

Sophie also expresses the need for as many people as possible with experience of mental health problems to take part in the public consultation process.

Looking closer at the White Paper, it contains changes that should help to strengthen people’s rights. Changes include:

  • Giving legal weight to people’s choices and preferences about their care and treatment.
  • Choosing which family member or friend is given particular rights to be involved in their care.
  • Providing culturally appropriate advocacy and a wider range of support from advocates to better help people from a range of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds to express their thoughts and wishes about the care they receive.
  • More opportunities for tribunals to discharge people, scrutinise and make certain changes to their care.

Sophie notes that certain communities, for example Black men, are more likely to be held against their will under the Act, in many cases being subjected to dangerous and degrading practices like physical and chemical restraint.

“That’s why it’s crucial the Government hears from people from different Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups, to make sure any changes work equally well for people from different cultural backgrounds, as well as taking steps to identify, address and tackle underlying and systemic racism that results in disproportionate detentions and use of force.”

With the coronavirus pandemic ongoing, Sophie stresses that more people are likely to find themselves in a mental health crisis in the coming months and the reforms suggested have the potential to make a real difference to those in need.

Commenting on his experience as a young Black man who was sectioned at age 16, Antonio explains that while he was sectioned he felt like he was in prison, being punished.

“I was restrained so many times and it’s terrifying – once I had four people restrain me. I remember being tranquillised and put in an isolation room for six hours, adding to the feeling of being in a cold zoo.

“People should be treated with dignity and respect. Even people who were able to make decisions, they were still treated like they couldn’t.”

He goes on to highlight how important it is for people who have been detained, especially Black men like him, to come forward to ensure their voices are heard.

Visit the government’s website to respond to the White Paper and ensure your voice is heard.


If you’re struggling to cope right now, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Connect with a therapist today at Counselling Directory.  

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