The Mental Health Act 2001

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The Mental Health Act of 2001 has been a fundamental piece of legislation governing the admission of persons to approved centres i.e. Department of Psychiatry as involuntary patients.  It was recently the subject matter of a report by the Oireachtas.

Committee Frances Black chaired that committee.  At the time when the Act was brought in it was very paternalistic in nature and the fundamental under pinning of the legislation was the so called “best interests of the patient”.  However, the best interests of the patient were determined by anyone but the patient.  The attitude was very much that the Doctor knows best and the view of the Doctor overruled concerns of any other person.  The committee recommended that the reasons to admit someone as an involuntary patient be more limited.

The College of Psychiatrists have voiced their opposition to the position of the committee.  The college has stated that many people have positive experiences of

in-treatment including involuntary detention.  The College of Psychiatrists state that only a minority of patients ever require the option of involuntary treatment, generally those patients have enduring illnesses such as Bipolar disorder and/or chronic psychotic disorders e.g.  schizophrenia.

The issue here is the interface between a human rights-based approach to the mental health system as an alternative to a Doctor lead approach to the mental health system.  How these opposing views will be resolved is a matter for the Oireachtas.  However, all parties are agreed that resources available to the mental health services are woefully inadequate and, in all likelihood, if there were better resources there would be fewer admissions as involuntary patients to the relevant Departments.  If you have any issues in terms of mental health law, please contact Finola Cronin.