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The Mental Health Act: consider repealing most powers of coercion

Comment 4th July 2010
Nick Clegg promised that the government would "repeal" all of "the intrusive and unnecessary laws that inhibit people's freedom".  Many of us rejoiced prematurely, wrongly anticipating the imminent repeal of the illiberal powers contained in the hated Mental Health Act.  The Act confers powers that most of the public don't seem to realise are present in the Act, to impose unwanted mental health services on ordinary people who aren't a danger to anybody, and who communicate, with full mental capacity, clear advance directives refusing all mental health services.  
 
Will the government please initiate a consultation of mental health service users, past and present, including all those who have ever been sectioned, and those who are only compliant with unwanted treatment because they have been threatened with being sectioned if they do not comply?  Will he promise that the repeal of Mental Health Act's powers of coercion will not be ruled out from the outset of this consultation?

Why does this matter?

The Mental Health Act has created an underclass of sub-humans who are stripped of many of their most important human rights and civil liberties.  Parliament is likely soon to repeal the one section that discriminates against MPs.  It is also time to liberate the rest of us.
 
The Mental Health Act, at every turn, clashes with the tenets of liberalism and libertarianism, not to mention international treaty obligations galore of the UK (including our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.)
 
My proposal will save money, and improve mental health services, at the same time.  Repealing the powers to "section" would-be mental health refuseniks, thus making them unwilling service users, could easily cut the number of mental health service users by up to a half at a stroke, maybe more.  If the mental health budget is only cut by a quarter, still a tidy sum of savings, this measure would enable half as much again to be spent on those who actually want to remain mental health service users voluntarily, after the abolition of coercion from psychiatry.
 
Retainning the Act in its present form renders hypocritical the lip service that the government pays to any anti-discrimination agenda, and the public can see this clearly.  In contrast, repealing the Mental Health Act's illiberal powers will go a long way towards ending discrimination against people with perceived mental illnesses.  The Mental Health Act says loud and clear that the Queen in Parliament thinks that mentally ill people are so life-skill challenged, that they cannot even be trusted to take their own decisions about medical treatment.  Who in his right mind would want somebody as incompetent as that, as an employee, or tenant?  I wouldn't!
 
My first job after leaving university in 1972 was in mental health.  In 2004, I was invited by the then minister to make a submission to the then Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Health Bill.  For almost forty years, I have hoped in vain for an end to the injustice of the Mental Health Act.  Throughout this time, nothing has improved, and a great deal has got worse, for those unfortunate enough to be "prosecuted" (as it were) for "thought crimes", in "courts" in which psychiatry (which some call a pseudoscience) is judge, jury and executioner in its own court.
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