Coronavirus: mental health

The Mental Health Act needs urgent reform – but the Coronavirus Act has made a bad situation worse.

The worrying parts of the current law include the length of time people can be held, the use of restraint and how people of colour are treated. And in recent years there has been a steep rise in the numbers of people detained under the Act.

The Coronavirus Act has now removed essential safeguards. There is now no need for two doctors to sign-off a person’s detention under the Mental Health Act. And there no longer needs to be a review by an independent doctor of whether someone under section should continue to be medicated against their will after three months.

The Coronavirus Act has removed essential safeguards.

It also reduces the requirement to review someone’s detention under the Mental Health Act, and leaves open the possibility that someone could be held in hospital indefinitely in certain circumstances.

Treatment for mental ill-health should be person-centred, but by seriously limiting these safeguards, the Government’s response to this pandemic risks sacrificing people’s fundamental rights at a particularly distressing time for them.

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