Mental Health Act 2001 updated in line with international human rights standards
Objective: Mental Health Act 2001 updated in line with international human rights standards
The Act: The Mental Health Act 2001, setting out the circumstances in which a person may be admitted to, detained and treated in a hospital against their will, is not human rights compliant and must be urgently updated and amended.
Government review: We welcome the commitment in the Programme for Government and by the Department of Health to review the Act against international human rights standards, and in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in consultation with stakeholders and most crucially people who use mental health services. The Government has stated this will be a full and thorough review. We believe this opportunity must be used not only to update the law, but also to support a cultural shift in how mental health services are managed and delivered.
At the most fundamental level, the Act can deprive people of their liberty. Such powers need to be carefully monitored and must meet international human rights standards.
Human rights: We are concerned that the Act is not in line with international human rights standards, in particular the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This Convention challenges us to look at the role of society in disabling people rather than seeing people with the disability. Among our human rights concerns are the lack of a recovery focus, the way the tribunal system works (where detention is reviewed), the lack of capacity safeguards, the overly paternalistic application of the law where the view of the psychiatrist is only really considered, and how treatment is currently allowed for against a capable person’s will under the Act. The 2011 report from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture also highlighted a number of concerns. These include the lack of protection for voluntary patients, the need to amend the Act in relation to the use of electro-convulsive therapy, and the lack of an independent capacity assessment.
Ultimately, people experiencing mental health problems must be supported when they need it. They need autonomy to make decisions about their own healthcare, and they need to have no fear about the treatment they get. For some people hospitalisation and medication will be needed, but inpatient treatment should be a last resort and a full range of supports and services made available. Fundamentally, we need a response to mental health in this country that makes human rights a reality for people with mental health problems.
Impact: What will have changed for people if the Mental Health Act is reviewed and capacity legislation enacted.
If you have a serious or enduring mental health problem it will mean:
- The circumstances where you can be detained against your will are further limited
- You cannot be treated against your will if you have capacity
- A social worker and a psychologist be involved in your case and not just a psychiatrist
- You will know your rights at every stage of your hospital stay whether you are a voluntary patient or involuntary patient
- If you’re not capable of making a decision at a particular moment you will be supported and your wishes as previously stated will be taken into account
- If you have made any advance statements about what kind of treatment you want they will be respected
- If you are a voluntary patient you will not feel as though you have been detained against your will
Our review: We have conducted our own detailed review of the Act, which includes recommendations about where and how it should be amended.
Read our review of the Mental Health Act 2001.
29 April 2013 Amnesty International Ireland co-hosted a conference with the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway, exploring how the new capacity legislation should include supported decision-making in theory and practice. This conference focused on the need to put the 'will and preferences' of the individual and supported decision-making at the heart of the new legislation, and what looks like in practice.
23 June 2012 Amnesty International Ireland and the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway held a conference exploring mental health law in a human rights context. With the backdrop of the current review of the 2001 Mental Health Act and the drafting of new capacity legislation, we heard from national and international experts on how best to reflect the latest developments in international human rights law.
3 April 2012 Amnesty International Ireland and the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway hosted a second seminar, exploring how Ireland can learn from other jurisdictions on legislating for legal capacity. This seminar examined practical and technical legislative solutions to ensure that Ireland can comply with its obligations under international human rights law, most specifically Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
25 July 2012 a group of Cork political representatives, including Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health, met constituents to discuss improvements to Ireland’s Mental Health Act. Find out more.
30 November 2011 Amnesty International Ireland and the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway hosted a seminar exploring how new capacity law can reflect the human rights standards outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.