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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 16:09 GMT
Mental health: Reaction
Depressed person
Campaigers are concerned about compulsion
Ministers have announced plans for a radical shake up of mental health laws in England and Wales. Here campaigners give their reaction.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE:

"On the whole it is a move forward, and it is trying to get a better balance of rights between the individual with the mental illness, their families and carers and the public. That has been long overdue."

"We have been campaigning for 15 years about changing the Mental Health Act because it is quite out of date. It was written at a time when people were locked away in institutions and did not protect that the majority of people are now living in the community.

"We would welcome the fact that there is more emphasis on the health and safety of the person, rather than the immediate dangers they may pose.

Marjorie Wallace
Marjorie Wallace said reform was overdue
"We also welcome the fact that people who have otherwise fallen outside the Mental Health Act and have just been picked up by the criminal justice system - that is people with severe anti-social personality disorders - will now be included, and they will have a chance of some form of treatment.

"But we are very concerned about this whole idea of compulsion. We have been fighting to say that compulsion must be used as a last resort, and that if it is going to take place in the community we would much prefer to see people taken back to a clinical setting if they have to be given some form of treatment against their wishes.

"There is a concern that if it is in the community people would feel afraid to come to the services."

Brian Rogers, head of the Community Psychiatric Nurses Association:

"There is no significant evidence which will show that either treating people with mental illnesses compulsorily in the community or detaining people with severe personality disorders will work.

You can argue that, in the run up to Christmas, we should lock up every person we know who has had drink-driving related problems

Brian Rogers, Community Psychiatric Nurses Association
"In fact, there does seem to be some evidence - certainly with regard to compulsory treatment - that it could be counter-productive and actually increase the number of people who may well be admitted to hospital.

"While no-one would wish to dismiss the tragedies that have happened, they are very small numbers and they are very isolated cases.

"The real difficulty with people like Michael Stone is that in many cases their behaviour is unpredictable anyway.

"You can argue that, in the run up to Christmas, we should lock up every person we know who has had drink-driving related problems - that would probably save infinitely more lives than locking up people with personality disorders."

Mark Leech, chief executive of the ex-offenders charity Unlock:

"The Government have been consulting on what to do with those who have severe personality disorders and they seem set to turn back the clock a century by locking them up in Bedlams and throwing away the key.

"Locking up the mentally ill has been a failing of our approach to the mentally ill for the 20th century, but it is not the way forward and simply becomes a way in which the streets are cleared of those who are deemed to be dangerous when, in fact, they have committed no offences at all."

"The solution is to invest massively in community care, so appropriate supervision and support exists for those living with mental illness, and is not as at present available, between nine and five, Monday to Friday.

"Sweeping these people behind the door of closed institutions and pretending they do not exist will not result in progress, but instead it will cause our descendants to look back a century from now with all the incredulity and horror that we feel when looking back a century on those Bedlams into which our great-grandparents flung their so-called mentally deranged."

Jayne Zito, who founded the Zito Trust after her husband Jonathan was killed by schizophrenic:

"The government has acknowledged that care in the community has not worked in this country.

The government has acknowledged that care in the community has not worked in this country

Jane Zito, Zito Trust
"The reforms that it is announcing today will enable patients who do deteriorate when they don't take their treatment, to be treated in the community and to sustain a level of mental health so they don't have to be recalled to hospital.

"One of the things we said over and over again when my husband Jon died is that Christopher Clunis was a victim of a policy.

"It is important that the public recognise that there are a small minority of patients within our mental health system who do not comply with their treatment orders.

"This legislation will ensure that these patients are followed up with tight supervision and if they do not comply with their treatment that risk will be minimised."

Cliff Prior, chief executive, National Schizophrenia Fellowship:

"The white paper is an early Christmas present for everyone who believes that the time is right to end the Cinderella status of mental health.

"But it is a Christmas present that carries a demand for payment. There can be no buy-now, pay-later period when it comes to investing in mental health.

"The best way to improve mental health care and reduce risks is to make sure people and their families can get the help they need as early as possible. The white paper is an important step in the right direction."

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