The Mental Health Policy is Punitive – Health System Example

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"The Mental Health Policy is Punitive" is a controversial example of a paper on the health system. The Government of the United Kingdom had proposed reforms to the Mental Health Act 1983 and consequently introduced the Mental Health Bill. It had published the first draft of the bill in the year 2002. In this bill, it was proposed to rectify a statutory flaw, which enabled dangerous people who suffer from acute psychological problems to reject medical treatment on the excuse that they would not benefit from such treatment. The government has adopted the required measures for providing compulsory treatment and this has benefitted the general public to a significant extent. Opponents to these reforms include critics, mental health campaigners, charities, service users, carers, and professionals.

They argue that the proposals are very stringent and fortify the illusion that people who suffer from psychological problems are uncontrolled and dangerous. To this contention, the ministers of the government have replied that a revised version of the bill would be presented, which would address these issues. However, the committee of MPs had declared that the proposed bill would violate the human rights of the patients. The Mental Health Bill had been introduced in the UK Parliament in 2006.

This bill attempts to reform the Mental Health Act 1983 and append the Bournewood Safeguards in the Mental Capacity Act of 2005. The fundamental objective of the Mental Health Act of 1983 was to describe the situations and conditions which lead to the confinement and treatment without the consent of people with mental disorders. That Act had also established certain precautionary measures to be followed before performing such acts.

The primary objective of the Act is to give treatment to dangerous people with mental disorders and thereby to reduce the risk to the general public (Mental Health Bill, 2006). The new bill was designed to make amendments to the Mental Capacity Act and the Mental Health Act. The ECtHR had ruled in the Bournewood case that these acts required amendment. These acts will be changed through the Bill in such a manner that mental disorder will be clearly defined and there will be no necessity to seek any other classification.

Moreover, the bill will carry out a better suitable treatment test that will supersede the previous test. It will enable an extended group of medical personnel to assume the role of an approved social worker or medical officer (Mental Health Bill, 2006). The new bill will establish a Mental Health Review Tribunal which will require managers of hospitals to facilitate the referral of cases to it. There will be only one Tribunal for England and another one for Wales. The bill proposes a radical change, which would eliminate the present limited restriction orders.

With the help of this stipulation, a patient with a mental disorder can be detained until that person no longer poses a potential danger to others. Consequently, the government proposed the implementation of a systematic amendment to the Mental Health Act 1983 (Eastman, 2006). The government had set up an advisory group to recommend an executable mechanism for a new system that would fulfill the needs of various mental health cases. It intended to obtain consensus in respect of the introduction of the new bill. The bill demands tribunals to cover community treatment and to implement mental health care plans (Eastman, 2006). The stance of legislation in detaining a person under the mental health act has undergone considerable change.

Darius Whelan has stated in the Irish Times that after a protracted delay the mental health law of Ireland has come into effect. A substantial change took place to the effect that from November 2006, all involuntary detentions in a mental hospital have to be extensively checked by a mental health tribunal that has at least three members. Furthermore, the tribunal has to do this within 21 days of such detention (Opinion.

Major new mental health law long-awaited, 2006). Mental health problems continue to be labeled and this scenario will continue as long as access to mental health services depends on specialist referral routes and this situation remains hidden to most of the population. The promotion of mental health campaigns will help young people from black minority ethnic populations and to make these services friendlier, there is a necessity to design these programs in different ways (Raistrick & Richards). The government had endeavored to amend the mental health legislation.

This attempt ignored the warning of the MPs and peers. The conclusion arrived at by the parliamentary committee which examined the legislation in detail, was that the civil liberties of the citizens would be endangered. These observations of the committee have been viewed seriously by the government. Moreover, the government censured the joint committee for its concealment of the fact that the bill recommends forced detention of mentally ill people to provide them with treatment (Ministers reject concerns over the mental health law, 2005). Although the number of people suffering from severe psychological problems is very less, they create risk and danger to society.

A majority of these people become a menace to themselves. Nevertheless, they require tender and kind-hearted treatment in a hospital. However, the National Health Service does not provide such compassionate treatment and medical professionals cannot be blamed for this situation. Grants have been reduced and budgetary allocations have been diminished (Leader, 2007). A large number of people suffering from mental illness have not been provided shelter in community care centers or hospitals. Instead, they have been restrained in prisons.

The government strongly supports its stance on this issue by stating that it is safeguarding individuals from dangerous mentally ill people. This position of the government has been reflected through the Mental Health Bill which aims to fortify the powers of the government to detain mentally ill people for treatment without consent. The bill empowers physicians to administer drugs and overpower patients to make them take medication. This bill had been accused of depriving the mentally ill of their civil liberties and had been rejected by their Lordships (Leader, 2007). Repeated medication and detention may be needed in some cases.

However, the very idea of such treatment brings to mind the dismal lack of facilities like uncontrolled hospitals and institutes, the severe shortage of beds for patients, and the absence of a community nurse for psychiatric care. These ground realities tend to worsen the mental and physical condition of the patient. Such a dismal dearth of sympathetic and humane treatment in the United Kingdom can be construed to be punitive (Leader, 2007). The government’ s initiative to bestow on the doctor's widespread powers is a welcome as this could bring about an improvement in the medical standards obtaining in the United Kingdom.

However, this initiative is overshadowed by the Mental Health Bill which considers mental illness to be an issue of public safety rather than that of public health. People with mental illness are in general a hazard to themselves. This bill not only poses a threat to the mentally ill persons but it also places a considerable amount of pressure on their families (Leader, 2007). Social science training to social workers has been imparted only to those who work in the field of mental health.

This training provides them with several ways of efficiently managing the problems of mentally sick people (The National Institute for Mental Health in England). An approved social worker or ASW has to decide whether a mentally ill person has to be detained to be provided with treatment. The science of social work is based on a combination of knowledge about professions like economics, sociology, political science, psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and the biological sciences.

Therefore, such social workers are best suited to help the mentally ill persons in the complex present-day society. Further, the contribution of social workers is indispensable to bringing about reform in mental health services. Therefore, it is imperative that they also possess thorough knowledge about the various policies of the government in the context of mental health.


Eastman, N. ( 2006). Reforming mental health law in England and Wales. British Medical Journal , 332 (7544).

Leader (Ed.). (2007, April 8). Mentally ill deserve more than cynicism. Retrieved April 22, 2007, from,,2052696,00.html

Mental Health Bill . (2006). Mental Health Bill [HL]. House of Lords. Session 2006 – 07 . Parliamentary copyright 2006.

Ministers reject concerns over mental health law . ( 2005, July 13). Guardian Unlimited .

Opinion. Major new mental health law long awaited. (2006, November 15). Irish Times , 18.

Raistrick, H., & Richards, D. (n.d.). Designing Primary Care Mental Health Services. Retrieved April 22, 2007, from

The National Institute for Mental Health in England. (n.d.). The social work contribution to mental health services. The future direction: a discussion paper. Retrieved April 26, 2007, from

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