As you will know, the government has started a review of the current Mental Health Act. See Independent Review of the Mental Health Act. The following groups have been set up for review purposes:

  • An Advisory Panel
  • A Service User and Carer Group for people with lived experience of detention and carers of people who have experienced detention
  • An African and African Caribbean Group
  • An Evidence and Analysis Group
  • A Working Group.

In addition, there has already been an invitation to submit relevant evidence, an invitation to which NSUN responded.

Opportunities to influence the review

  1. Apply urgently to take part in focus group discussions about the Mental Health Act

NSUN put in a successful bid to facilitate two of these:

A Greater London focus group for people belonging to Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic communities

  • Date: Friday 23 February
  • Venue: Attend, The King’s Fund, 11-13 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0AN

A West Midlands focus group

  • Date: Monday 26 February
  • Venue: Birmingham Conference Suite, Hawthorns House, Halfords Lane, West Bromwich B66 1BB

For whom the groups are designed

  • Membership of both groups is for people with lived experience of detention under the Mental Health Act
  • The Greater London focus group is specifically for people with lived experience of detention who also belong to Black, Asian or other Minority Ethnic communities. (That is because people from such communities are often over-represented amongst detained patients.)
  • The groups are for people who live in one of the two areas where the groups are running.

The facilitators will be aiming to recruit people with lived experience of detention who are also diverse in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation and physical/sensory or learning disabilities.  Diversity of membership will be a deciding factor, too, if more people apply for places in the groups than there are places available.

Funding

This will be a paid opportunity and reasonable travel expenses will be refunded.

How to apply for a place

For a place in the group for people from Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic communities, please contact Raza Griffiths, the lead facilitator Tel: 07737 647 445. Email: [email protected] or Dorothy Gould, the co-facilitator (Tel: 07565 399 422. Email: [email protected])

For a place at the West Midlands group, please contact Emma Ormerod, the lead facilitator, at [email protected]

  1. Complete the surveys circulated by the Department of Health

There is one for mental health service users with lived experience of detention under the Mental Health Act and one for carers of people who have this experience.

The Department of Health has clarified that the surveys can be used either to suggest completely new mental health legislation (as you will know, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has recommended a move away from medical models and an end to detentions and compulsory treatment), or to suggest amendments to the current Mental Health Act and its implementation.

You can access the surveys by clicking on the following links:


You can then complete the survey relevant to you online, or print a copy and post it to the following address:
Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, 39 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0EU

Closing date: Completed surveys need to arrive by Wednesday 28 February.

  1. Participate in stakeholders workshops

These are designed for anyone with an interest in reform of the Mental Health Act and  implementation of mental health law, e.g. service users with lived experience of detention, carers and professionals. Professor Sir Simon Wessely, the chair of the Mental Health Act Independent Review, will host the workshops.

One workshop will take place in Newcastle on 27 February. A second will be in London on 26 February.

To apply for a place, please click here:

There has been a high demand for places at these workshops. However, if you haven’t applied for a place before now and find that a workshop is already full, you can ask to be put on the waiting list.

There will also be a workshop in Cardiff, on a date still to be established.

  1. Send NSUN’s updated letter to your MP

If you would like to advocate for rights-based mental health law, based on moving away from medical model approaches and bringing an end to detentions and compulsory treatment and if you agree with NSUN’s concerns about the Mental Health Alliance’s report, we would encourage you to complete NSUN’s updated sample letter and send it to your MP.

This will be particularly relevant if you haven’t yet been in touch with your MP about Mental Health Act reform. However, if you have been in touch already, you may want to use the updated letter to remind and update your MP about issues which you want to raise. (We recognise, of course, that you may want to write your own letter on the subject, but thought that a model letter would be useful.)

  • Here is a copy of the letter with hyperlinks to use digitally
  • Here is a copy with full web links to print as a hard copy

You just need to:

  • Insert a date at the top of the letter to fit the date when you send the letter to your MP
  • Add your local MP’s name in place of ‘MP NAME’
  • Insert your name and provide your contact details in place of the words ‘YOUR NAME, CONTACT DETAILS’

It is useful to include your postal address amongst the contact details; MPs may want to be sure that you live in their constituency.

If you need to find out who your MP is because you don’t already know, go to http://www.parliament.uk/business/commons/ and type your postcode into the Find Your MP box on the right hand side of the page. Here you will see who your MP is.

Your MP may have their own website where you can find out more about them and their concerns and interests. You may also be able to follow them on Twitter.

Another useful website is https://www.theyworkforyou.com/ . If you type in the name of your MP and the issue, you will see all the statements which they have made on that subject.

When you get a reply please send a copy of it to NSUN by email, or post

  • You can post a copy to NSUN, PO Box 74752, London E11 9GD

If you share NSUN’s unease about the government’s current plans for reform of the Mental Health Act and about the Mental Health Alliance’s report, it would be very helpful if you can use your networks to encourage as many individuals and organisations as possible to raise concerns with their MP.

More news concerning the Mental Health Act and is current review

Advisory Panel membership

NSUN has just achieved membership of the Advisory Panel for the Review of the Mental Health Act and will be represented at the second meeting of the Advisory Panel due on 20 February.

Input from NSUN’s Survivor Researcher Network (SRN) to the Review Process

On 17 January, there was an opportunity for some representatives from the SRN to meet Helen Farmer and Steve Gilbert from the Review Team. At the meeting, SRN members shared their perceptions of the Mental Health Act review process to date. Key points made included:

  • The need for the review to make use of last year’s recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the recent report from Mental Health Europe and the University of Kent (see below), i.e. to adopt a human rights model of disability and bring to an end the coercive powers of the current Mental Health Act.
  • The importance of questioning definitions of ‘mental disorder’ in the Mental Health Act
  • The relevance of the current context for the Act
  • The level of disempowerment which many people are feeling because of austerity measures and their resulting lack of confidence that their views about the Mental Health Act will be heard and have a real impact
  • The need also to counteract white privilege and other disadvantages experienced by people who are marginalised in more than one way.

There was a chance, too, to put forward ideas about the forthcoming focus groups for service users with lived experience of detention and carers of people with this experience. SRN members made suggestions about user-friendly approaches, the sort of material that it would be helpful to circulate in the guidance pack, the kinds of questions which would be helpful to ask and appropriate analytic methods.

The final decisions were made by the Independent Review Team, however.

A new report from Mental Health Europe and theTizard Centre at the University of Kent

The report is entitled Mapping and Understanding Exclusion in Europe and can be found at https://mhe-sme.org/mapping-exclusion/. 

Its recommendations are similar to those from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for the UK government UNCRPD’s final report .

The report from Mental Health Europe and the University of Kent calls on European countries, including the UK, to adopt holistic strategies in place of institutionalisation and to reduce and ultimately eliminate coercion in mental health services.

The position adopted by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW)

It is encouraging to see that BASW has called for mental health law to be made compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

BASW has, too, put a strong focus on the need for service users and carers to drive the review of the Mental Health Act. In addition, BASW has emphasised the need to consider the impact of factors such as poverty, racism and reductions in adult social care on mental wellbeing.

Read more here.