Royal College of Psychiatrists: Public Say No to Mental Health Legislation

The public do not support proposed laws that would make it easier to detain and treat people with mental health problems against their wishes, according to a new YouGov poll.

The poll, commissioned by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, showed that 72% of those surveyed do not think that people with mental health problems should be forced to have ‘treatment’ from which they cannot benefit. And 68% do not believe that hospitals should be used to detain people with mental health problems if they cannot benefit from treatment and have committed no crime.

The results were released in advance of this week’s second reading of the Mental Health Bill in the House of Commons. The Government has indicated that it intends to force through amendments to the current Bill. The Royal College of Psychiatrists believes that this would bring far more people who cannot benefit from ‘treatment’ within the scope of mental health legislation and make it more likely people would be detained and treated inappropriately.

The YouGov poll also showed that the public views are based on a first-hand knowledge of mental health issues. 63% of those polled knew someone who has suffered from mental health problems and 88% of those did not believe that these people presented a risk to the public.

“We had a number of serious concerns with the original Bill and wanted to know whether the general public shared our views,” says Professor Sheila Hollins, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. “We believe that this poll clearly shows that they do.

“The danger in such overtly tough, overly inclusive legislation is that it will deter people with serious mental health problems from seeking early help. Without such treatment they could become a risk to the public, while remaining unknown to the very people who could help them.

“It may also make patients so fearful of incarceration that they may not be open with us about their symptoms. Thirdly it will be a strain on resources. If valuable hospital beds are filled with people who can’t be helped then they won’t be available for patients who can be effectively treated.

“The British people clearly understand many of the issues around mental health and are sympathetic towards people with mental health problems. The House of Lords has made some very sensible amendments to the Bill, which if retained would lead to fair and effective mental health legislation fit for the 21st Century. We call on the Government and all MPs not to overturn these amendments in The Commons.”