|Ministers want to hand health professionals more powers to medicate people
The Mental Health Bill launched today has been condemned by mental health experts as “one of the most repressive pieces of legislation that this country has seen.”
It allows people who are 'acting strangely' to be detained and medicated. Currently it takes two doctors and a social worker to 'section' under mental health laws.
But under government proposals police will be able to apprehend citizens who can then be medicated by a single hospital psychiatrist. There is also a new broader definition of mental disorder.
Blink is urging readers to lobby their MP's to oppose the proposed legislation, which experts believe would disproportionately affect Black people. Please click on the link below to send your postcode to us. We will reply with contact details for your MP and a model lobbying letter which would can modify.
Mental health expert Professor Sashi Sashidharan said: “This is a racist Bill that will lead to considerable racial disadvantage for Black people in this country.”
The ministers are being backed by the governments' mental health czar Louis Appleby, but the proposed Bill has been criticised by mental health charities including Mind, Rethink, Sane, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, and the Mental Health Alliance.
Robert Jones, social care manager at Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust said: “There are high numbers of Black people within the mental health system.
“This Bill is likely to affect the Black community more than anyone else.”
Department of Health figures show African-Caribbean people are over five times more likely to be detained in high security units and six times more likely to be sectioned than their white counterparts. Black people are also far more likely to be over-medicated.
|We are being thrown back to an age where the mental health law is based on prejudice, ignorance and fear
|Cliff Prior – Rethink
“We are being thrown back to an age where the mental health law is based on prejudice, ignorance and fear rather than hope and recovery”, Cliff Prior, chief executive of the mental health charity Rethink, told Blink.
“This flies in the face of the original intention of reforming the old Mental Health Act, and will lead to many travesties of justice.”
Critics of the government believe police officers should not be left alone to make important medical decisions about who should be detained and medicated.
With police already under fire over disproportionate use of stop and search against Black communities, health professionals believe the new powers would be used in a racist way.
The Mental Health Alliance, which represents over 60 service user groups, accuses the government of riding roughshod over the vast majority of the 2,000 people who responded to the consultation. Hardly any groups supported the idea of giving police the powers to detain and medicate people cops suspect of suffering from mental illness.
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Several mental health organisations believe the government are playing politics with the issue by pandering to tabloid concern over attacks by mentally ill people. Such fears are overblown, according to experts.
Bakhitar Hormoz, director of Songhai and a member of the Alliance, said: “We know that when new restrictive practices are put in place it is the Black community who suffer. This Bill is likely to affect the Black community more than anyone else.”
Experts believe the proposed legislation will be savaged in Parliament, and any desire on the part of ministers for cheap headlines may be undermined by an MP's rebellion and possible defeat in votes on key parts of the Bill.
Alliance chair Paul Farmer said the Bill was “rooted in an outdated false stereotype that people with mental health problems are a danger to society.”