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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 September, 2004, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
'No-one listens to the patients'
By Laura Smith-Spark
BBC News Online

Jason Pegler
Jason Pegler found hospital treatment was like being in prison
Proposals to allow the enforced treatment or detention of mental health patients have been watered down in the face of pressure from campaigners.

Two people who have experienced mental illness tell BBC News Online why it is so important to listen to those who have been through the system.

Jason Pegler, a 29-year-old publisher from London, realised his life would never be the same again after he was hospitalised for six months, aged 17, for manic depression.

He said: "Being in hospital you feel like you are no longer a human being and it's like being in prison when you haven't done anything wrong."

Counter-productive

The 2002 draft Mental Health Bill proposed measures to detain people for their own protection and the protection of others - even if their condition was not treatable and they had committed no offence.

The criteria under which people can be detained have been tightened under Wednesday's new draft bill but the proposals still have many critics.

Mr Pegler, who has spent time in five different hospitals and remains on medication voluntarily, said any move to force people into treatment would be counter-productive.

They are not somewhere you want to put your worst enemy, let alone yourself or a close friend or member of your family
Jason Pegler

"What will happen is people won't seek help from the health service and they will be more isolated," he said.

"I think compulsory treatment is a human rights violation.

"What I would want as a patient is to be treated as a human being, not as someone who has done something wrong - and that's what hospitals are like.

"They are not somewhere you want to put your worst enemy, let alone yourself or a close friend or member of your family."

He argues health professionals and society need to take a more humanitarian approach to mental illness by realising it could affect everyone.

'Not listening'

Mr Pegler, who published his autobiography A Can of Madness in 2002, said it was only by removing the taboo around mental illness that attitudes would change.

The vast majority of people were not given the information they needed while in hospital or receiving treatment, he said, which made them more vulnerable.

"I felt mental health services had let me down and society let me down and I felt I would have mental health problems for the rest of my life," he said.

"It took me more than eight years to emotionally get over it.

If the legislation is not careful, it will feel like we are being punished because our rights are being taken away
Anne Beales, Maca

"Mental health is meant to be a government priority and yet they are not listening to the patients who actually go through the service."

Anne Beales, who works with mental health charity Maca, said it was vital people were involved in their own treatment rather than having it imposed on them.

The 47-year-old, from Littlehampton in West Sussex, has experienced several bouts of depressive illness - but has found her way through each one in different ways.

She said: "When you experience distress the things you look for are safety and to be looked after.

Pills
Patients argue they must have choices in their own treatment

"If the legislation is not careful, it will feel like we are being punished because our rights are being taken away and that's not helpful at all.

"The process of having your rights taken away can be as traumatic as the feeling of terrible distress because it makes you feel more powerless and leaves you with no choice."

Ms Beales said the government ought to view compulsory treatment in terms of patients' rights to housing, employment and no discrimination from society.

"Their idea of treatment and our idea of treatment are very different," she said.

"What government legislation has to do is support us in our recovery - and that means allowing us choices, allowing us privacy and affording us respect."




SEE ALSO:
'Mental health plan watered down'
19 Aug 04  |  Politics
Q&A: Mental health laws
25 Jun 02  |  Health


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