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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 00:53 GMT 01:53 UK
One in three fear mental health laws
A draft Mental Health Bill is out for consultation
A draft Mental Health Bill is out for consultation
More than one in three people would not seek medical help for depression if proposed mental health laws are introduced, campaigners warn.

The new laws would give doctors the power to force people with severe mental health problems to take medication, even if they did not want to.

A survey of 1,000 people for the mental health charity Mind found concerns about the measures were even higher amongst the young, where 52% said they would not seek medical help for a mental health problem.

Official statistics show there are at least two suicides every day in that age group.

Mind is running a hard-hitting advertising campaign
Mind is running a hard-hitting advertising campaign
Low earners, another at-risk group, are also wary of what the new laws could mean for them.

Forty per cent said they would not seek help if they were introduced.

Mind said 40% of men also expressed concerns over the proposed laws.

It warned the young and ethnic minority groups would be hit hardest by fears of being forcibly detained or treated.

Community treatment

The charity launched the survey results days before the end of the government's consultation period on the draft Mental Health Bill.

In addition, the charity is also running an advertising campaign spelling out its objections.


It is absolutely not our intention to increase the numbers of people who are treated using compulsory powers

Jacqui Smith, health minister
It is calling for major changes to the Bill as it stands, warning it would lead to thousands of people being treated inappropriately and against their will.

It is also angry that the Bill would allow people objecting to being given medication to be forcibly treated in the community.

At the moment, people can only receive compulsory treatment in hospital.

Those surveyed were told of the proposed changes, then asked: "Do you think that the introduction of these laws would deter you from seeking help from your doctor if you felt depressed or were suffering from a mental health problem, or not?"

Richard Brook, chief executive of Mind, said: "We have been campaigning for some years now for a new Mental Health Act which would give people with mental health problems rights and dignity.

"What the government has delivered is a real blow to the people who most need their support.

"We are now calling on the government to stop and listen to the views of the one in four people who experience mental health problems before they pass a law which would seriously affect their lives and their relationship with the medical profession."

Consent

Celebrities including Joanna Lumley, Zoe Wannamaker and Sean Hughes have signed up to a statement supporting Mind's campaign.

It says: "Unless the government stops and listens, they will miss the best opportunity for a generation to introduce a new and improved Mental Health Act that will enable people with mental health problems to receive the treatment that they need, when they need it and not be turned away from services.

"The vast majority of people with mental health problems respond best when they are involved in and consent to decisions about their care and treatment."

But health minister Jacqui Smith defended the Draft Bill.

"It is absolutely not our intention to increase the numbers of people who are treated using compulsory powers.

"In fact, as mental health services are improved and modernised and people are helped earlier in their illness, we expect compulsory powers to be used less."

Ms Smith said most people with mental health problems would never need to be treated under compulsory powers.

She added: "Mental health legislation is there to provide protection for patients and others when it is not possible to provide treatment on an informal and consensual basis."

Ms Smith said all comments made on the draft Mental Health Bill would be considered seriously."

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Mental health charity Mind spokesman Richard Brook
"This bill is much more wide ranging"
See also:

27 Feb 02 | Health
04 Oct 01 | Health
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