Sunday, 12 August 2012

how safe are the safeguards in the mental health act?

There are a number of safeguards in the Mental Health Act Scotland 2003, for people with a 'mental disorder' and under the Act, to "make sure your rights are protected".

The main ones are the Mental Health Tribunal, named person, advocacy, advance statement, Mental Welfare Commission.   In theory these pillars, along with the Principles of the Act, should ensure fair and just treatment for people in mental distress and under detention.  In practice it depends on the safeguards having the power and place they are meant to have, in my opinion.  (taken from recent blog post 'Mental Health Acts - Protecting Rights or Not?')

I am concerned that there is a gulf between the theory and practice, of safeguards keeping people safe, in the experiences of patients, carers and family members engaging with the psychiatric system.  Locked wards and the use of restraint, seclusion and compulsory/forced treatment are high risk places and procedures. Where basic human rights are in danger of being overlooked or ignored.  The right to adequate food, housing, water and sanitation; the right to freedom of expression.   

As a 'named person' and carer I had limited rights of access to the psychiatric locked ward.  Advocacy was difficult to obtain and, in our opinion, not a voice for the locked-up patient.  The advance statement required more content to be taken seriously.  Another 'bulletproof' one has been written.  The Mental Health Tribunal seemed to be on the side of the system and not the patient, having little impact on patient safetyAs for the Mental Welfare Commission I want to believe it's a watchdog (with teeth) and a guide dog, helping shape policy, develop services and safeguard rights.  See MWC 'Influencing & Challenging'.


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