The world has changed significantly since 1983. Our way of life would be barely recognisable to someone from that era. The impact that technology has had on our daily lives, the way we engage and communicate with one another, the kind of jobs we do, and even the fundamental way we approach community and society is radically different. Even though this is the case, we often find the legislation that governs our daily lives is not regularly updated to reflect the changing times. One example is the 1983 Mental Health Act and although it’s long overdue, we welcome the major reforms that are being introduced.
Why is this relevant?
Mental health encompasses our psychological, social and emotional wellbeing. It influences how we think, feel and act. Problems with mental health and wellbeing can be incredibly detrimental to individuals, making decision making and even simple daily activities difficult for those who are struggling (2).
The statistics provide an alarming insight into the widespread impact of poor wellbeing. 1 in 4 people suffer with a mental health problem of some sort each year, and 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common health problem (like anxiety or depression) in any given week (2). Staggeringly, 70-75% of people with diagnosable mental illness receive no treatment at all (3). Unbeknown to most, mental ill-health is the second-largest cause of the burden of disease in England (4).
The difficulties that we’ve faced over the past year (such as the lockdowns, social distancing and isolation) mean that the situation with poor mental health has been significantly exacerbated. In 2020, the London Ambulance Service reported that they attended an average of 37 attempted suicides per day, in comparison to 22 in the previous year (5).
Why are the reforms necessary?
The 1983 Mental Health Act was created to protect the rights of people with mental health problems, their ability to access treatments and the procedure for hospitalisation. Sadly, this act was drafted using data from the 1950s, when the understanding of mental health and psychology was comparatively primitive.
The legislation from this act is used frequently to this day. From 2019-2020, 50,893 new detentions were recorded under the Mental Health Act, however, it is widely known that this does not paint an accurate picture as data was not submitted by several providers (6). Concerning inconsistencies have also been identified as the number of those detained from a ‘Black or Black British’ ethnic group was 4 times higher than those from the ‘White group’ (6).
The amendments selected for this reform highlight the worrying shortfalls of the legislation, some of which are hard to comprehend.
What do the changes mean?
The new reforms show an attempt to tackle the mental health crisis and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. The goal is to empower individuals to have more control over their treatment, considering each scenario as unique. The changes also tackle concerning issues such as the disproportionate detention of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and those with learning disabilities or autism. It also outlines the need for improved care for patients within the criminal justice system.
What are the principles of the updates?
Any significant changes to the law need to be made in the interest of the people with the right priorities in mind. The approach to the Mental Health Act reform has been shaped with four key principles, identified by both an independent review and those with a lived experience of the system:
- Choice and autonomy – ensuring service users’ views and choices are respected.
- Least restriction – ensuring the act’s powers are used in the least restrictive way.
- Therapeutic benefit – ensuring patients are supported to get better, so they can be discharged from the act.
- The person as an individual – ensuring patients are viewed and treated as rounded individuals.
This is a perfect opportunity to shine a light on the often neglected, misunderstood and underestimated issue of poor mental health. As much as we welcome this long-overdue reform, this is no panacea. It is a step in the right direction and offers hope for the thousands of people affected by poor mental health and mental illness each year.
As we find an increase in the number of people struggling with poor mental health or mental illness, we must equip our people (particularly managers) to recognise the signs and symptoms. Early intervention, support and signposting to relevant resources is key. At the very least, understanding mental health can raise important awareness, destigmatise the subject, increase utilisation of support resources and could ultimately save someone’s life.
Are you doing enough to support your team’s mental health and wellbeing?
We offer a range of services including:
- Internal Audits (Wellbeing Insights Audit, Individual Risk Assessments and Stress Skills for Managers)
- Line Manager Training and Support
- Mental Wellbeing Ambassadors programme
- Mental Health First Aid (MHFA)
- Excelling under Pressure: Mastering Personal Resilience
- Tailored Workshops and Skills Training
The key thing is that we are all going to find our mental health and wellbeing is going to be tested and challenged by these trying times we find ourselves living through. Let’s engage your people in a meaningful dialogue, destigmatise the subject, make it ‘ok to not be ok’, express vulnerability (let’s reframe this as a sign of strength, not weakness) and ensure a great willingness to engage in the support resources you may have available.
Call us now on +44 (0) 20 3142 8659 or email email@example.com to book in a complimentary, no-obligation consultation and explore how we can support your organisation in building a culture of wellbeing.
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- McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey.
- Davies SC. Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2013, Public Mental Health Priorities: Investing in the Evidence [Internet]. 2014. Available from: uk