Mental Health Act

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The Mental Health Act is an Act of Parliament that governs the treatment and care of people with mental illness. It can also allow for the compulsory detention of individuals who are deemed to be a risk either to themselves or to other people. The laws are there to protect people with mental health problems and the public in general and as such they may be amended from time to time.

In the UK the Mental Health Act 2007 amended the previous Mental Health Act of 1983 and the Mental Capacity Act of 2005 but applies only to England and Wales. Changes were required in order to ensure that people with mental health disorders received the treatment they required and also to bring mental health law up to date with current treatment provisions and modern ways of life.

Some amendments brought in by Mental Health Act 2007

The Mental Health Act 2007 introduced a new and more appropriate definition of mental disorder being “Any disorder or disability of the mind” which now includes disorders related to sexual deviancy. There is no distinction between different categories of mental disorder so everyone with a disorder or disability of the mind will be able to access treatment.

The Act also states that an individual cannot be detained for medical treatment under the Mental Health Act unless appropriate treatment is available and also allows for supervised treatment at home for some patients, instead of continued treatment in hospital. However, the introduction of the Supervised Community Treatment also gives the power to return the patient to hospital for treatment if necessary, for example if the individual is not sticking to the medication regime.

ECT or electro convulsive therapy is a controversial treatment that is usually used as a last resort when other treatments have failed. Patients who have the capacity and have been detained will be able to refuse ECT and ECT can only be given to a patient that doesn’t have the capacity to refuse if there is no advance directive in place to state otherwise.

Another important amendment which brings the Act up to date with modern ways of living is that people in Civil Partnerships will now be treated the same as married couples when deciding who is the next of kin.

Scotland and Ireland

The proper care and treatment of people with mental disorders is also provided for under the law in Scotland and Ireland.

In Scotland the provisions are dealt with under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Scotland Act 2003 and in Ireland by the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 which was amended by The Mental Health (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2004.

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