Monday, March 1, 2021
Home News It’s still far too easy to lock mental patients away

It’s still far too easy to lock mental patients away

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WITH millions frustrated and often distraught amid the lockdown, the question of revising and updating mental health legislation has never been more timely.  

In a White Paper on the reform of the Mental Health Act,  the Government says: ‘We’re now proposing a wide range of changes to rebalance the Act, to put patients at the centre of decisions about their own care and ensure everyone is treated equally.’   

On the surface that sounds admirable. But, given the rise in mental health issues – alongside the tendency of the authorities to ride roughshod over our rights – it needs careful examination.  

I applaud the following statement: ‘We will introduce new guiding principles to drive a more person-centred system, in which the choices made by patients have weight and influence, where care must have a therapeutic benefit for the patient, and where the powers of the Act are only used when absolutely necessary.’  

Therapeutic benefit is something that should be at the heart of any treatment, making it odd that it needs stating. We have all heard horror stories relating to psychiatric ‘treatment’ as well as the injustices of sectioning.   

And there are details in the White Paper that require closer examination. For example, a great deal of concern has been expressed at how easily it has been to get someone declared unfit and have them incarcerated, sometimes for years.  

A lot more thought needs to be put into the people who are in charge of incarcerating others. The process is all too easy, and a greater balance needs to be struck before an individual’s human rights are simply taken away.  

There are some improvements suggested, such as the patient being able to list his or her preferences regarding treatment. Any treatment should be beneficial, of course.  

One would hope that we would no longer see the appalling sight of mental patients sitting around a ward so drugged that they can no longer think for themselves.  

The explanation of what ‘mentally ill’ means should have an easy-to-understand definition. All too often, this has been determined by the subjective ideas of those doing the assessment. It shouldn’t be too hard to create a series of tests that can be measured to score an individual on his or her rational capabilities.  

Looking at the periods suggested when cases are reviewed one gets the idea of how easy it would be for incarcerated individuals to languish in horror as they wait for release. The minimum referral is four months, while others are up to three years apart. Someone could go insane just waiting for a review.  

The system proposed is still too bureaucratic and lengthy. If medical professionals cannot judge whether patients in their care are doing better, I doubt that a panel reading subjective reviews can do so.  

I am not a medical practitioner, but I say these things from the point of view of common sense. For too long we have had the State use its powers to lock people up and impose ‘treatment’ on them for years.  

The Soviets were good at that, but our own institutions have done the same – pulling the wool over our eyes by making mental disorders a mystery and not allowing us to question the idea. An individual can be anywhere on the scale between sane and insane, and that can vary day to day. It is not necessarily a permanent state.  

Psychiatry has a monopoly on mental health, it seems, which in itself is very curious, because none of its precepts has ever been backed up with scientific evidence.  

We can do a lot better in improving the nation’s mental health, but it will not be improved by a big-budget state monopoly. Nor will it be improved by allowing any authority to remove someone for ‘treatment’ without a valid definition of what they are suffering from.  

I would encourage everyone to review the White Paper, which you can see here, and consider responding to the consultation. After all, it may one day be you that someone considers has been reacting in a manner likely to cause harm to yourself or others.   

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Bryan Harris
Bryan Harris recently retired from the mainframe IT world. He has published a science fiction novel, 'Don't Let The Sun Go Brown'.

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