‘Whilst we recognise the good intentions, dedication and heart of those who contributed to this review, we cannot ignore its failure to address widespread and institutional abuse and the ongoing erosion of people’s human rights. This is not the time for timid changes or placating promises, it is a time for action and an opportunity to revision the support we offer to those in most distress’.
Akiko Hart, HVN Trustee
Today, to coincide with the launch of the government’s report on its Review of the Mental Health Act, we are launching an alternative review.
We believe this is important as the Mental Health Act has a profound impact on the lives of our members and supporters, many of whom have either been detained under the act, witnessed the detention of a loved one or lived under the threat of detention.
In view of serious concerns about the neglect of service user led groups within the review process, we conducted an event for over 100 of our members, coupled with a survey, to find out what changes they wanted to see. The report is the culmination of this process.
We want this report to stimulate dialogue, debate and help centre diverse service user/survivor voices. You can help by:
- Sharing the report (on social media (#AlternativeMHAReview), with group members, with family/friends/colleagues, with your MP etc).
- Contributing your experiences and perspectives to the discussion – either on this page, on social media or in the ‘non-virtual’ world.
It will be so easy for the issues raised by either of the mental health act reviews to get lost in the current political climate (where Brexit dominates the news). Let’s try and work together to keep the debate live and reach as many people as we can.
Download: Alternative MH Act Review_web
Contact your MP: www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/
Executive Summary of the Review
The Mental Health Act (MHA) is not fit for purpose and needs to be radically overhauled for the 21st century. This is not the time to sweep key issues under the rug, or rush through timid changes which fail those most vulnerable to the use of the MHA. We call for a bold and ambitious rights-based approach to the Mental Health Act and its Code of Practice.
At the heart of this endeavour is centering service users and survivors. Whilst we acknowledge the challenges and complexities around the process of creating the MHA Review, and the conviction, integrity and heart of those who contributed to the process, we also believe that the MHA Review has been a missed opportunity.
We held an event on the MHA Review in April 2018 for over 100 of our members and supporters, and conducted a survey with them to elicit their views on the changes they would like to see in mental health legislation. Six main themes emerged: enshrining a rights-based approach in the legislation and practice; acknowledging both the institutional abuse and the institutional racism at the heart of the mental health system; ending Community Treatment Orders; making Advance Decisions which relate to Electro-Convulsive Therapy and medication, entirely binding; and creating and funding meaningful alternatives to detention.
The MHA and the Code of Practice should enshrine a rights-based approach. Reflecting the views of our membership, we recognise the need for short-term detention (under 72 hours) in extreme circumstances. This should be understood as a grave decision of last resort, having exhausted all other options and should take place with the most stringent of safeguards. We call for an end to longer-term detention under the Mental Health Act in order to administer treatment, including forced medication. This can only take place alongside the implementation of a meaningful range of well-funded alternative mental health and social support.
We call for the abuse of service users who are detained under the MHA, to be acknowledged as a systemic, institutional issue, which needs to be addressed in multiple ways. This should include a review of the complaints procedures to ensure they are simple, transparent and effective, and that service user testimonies are not de-legitimised. We also call for an acknowledgement of the institutional racism at the heart of our mental health services, without which we will not be able to address the disproportionate number of racialised minorities who are subject to the Act. In line with the evidence, we advocate for an end to Community Treatment Orders, which have not been shown to reduce detention. Advance Decisions which are made when capacitous, and which relate to Electro-Convulsive Therapy and medication, should be entirely binding. Finally, we believe that meaningful changes to the MHA can only take place alongside the creation and funding of services and alternatives to detention that people want to use when they are distressed.