Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Psychiatric ASBOs coming to you very soon...

“Ensure that people with full decision making ability cannot be forced to have treatment imposed upon them against their will”. (One of the six amendments from the Lords scuppered by the Government)

I wrote recently about the Mental Health Bill specifically Community Treatment Orders. The Government and the Lords were locked in a battle over safeguards. Patricia Hewitt and Rosie Winterton were hostile to the proposals made by the Minister for Health Services).

The Bill has been going through committee stage and unfortunately every single amendment proposed by the Lords has been overturned. But what is more surreal is this latest research commissioned by the Dept of Health states:

"This review has found very little evidence of positive effects of CTOs in the areas where they might have been anticipated. None of the nine experimental studies found evidence suggesting that CTOs reduce either hospital readmission or length of stay, or that they improve compliance." (Rachel Churchill – International Experiences of Community Treatment Orders)

Even New Labour’s mental health Tsar, Louis Appleby, admitted that the review had “not reliably demonstrated the effectiveness of CTOs”…

And many others aren't too keen either on this Bill most recently the psychiatrist Suman Fernando has stated he will not accept the OBE in protest to this Bill.

"It seems most strange that the Government say they want to recognise my services to BME Mental Healthcare at a time when they are trying to push through legislation that would make things worse for black people caught up in the mental health system, in spite of strong objections by many people (including myself) expressed both publicly and in private to Government ministers."
“Failure of mental health services to meet the needs of BME communities results from institutional racism and injustices are evidently mostly in the experiences of black Caribbean people who are disproportionately sectioned and subjected to inappropriate – often damaging ‘care’”

New Labour is rushing this draconian Bill through at break-neck speed, wilfully ignoring and junking academic research and professionals. The Bill will be coming up for its 3rd reading but if it gets Royal Assent in its current state it will mean compulsion and containment. The Manic Depression Fellowship (MDF) carried out research in the late 1990s and found that 1 in 5 of respondents said that if CTOs were introduced they would be too frightened of the consequences to seek help from professionals. And who can blame them as trust and support will be replaced by coercion.

The Government will get their psychiatric “ASBO” which will revolve around that great panacea, “medication”, “medication, “medication”. Nowhere in this Bill is there any attempt to focus on alternatives to medication instead New Labour panders to the populist belief that people need to be “protected” from the “mad, bad and dangerous” to know by dosing them with a chemical cosh to make them compliant.

Hewitt has the audacity to argue that this Bill strikes a balance between the user and public safety. The rights of the user have diminished to nothing added to the continued stigmatisation, victimisation and oppression but as long as the public are “protected”…

New Labour believes it should be beyond legal restraint. The Mental Health Bill lacks safeguards, rights and principles. Who will make the decisions? Will someone on a CTO be allowed to appeal? How will the CTOs be monitored? Who will do the monitoring? Where is the accountability and transparency? It is one continuous attack on civil liberties, self-determination and autonomy. A trend and pattern is emerging with various measures introduced by this authoritarian Government such as the raft of anti-terrorism laws, ASBOs, and the latest attack on civil liberties from Reid arguing for a 'sus' law.

Unfortunately, come late June one ex-PM desperate for a legacy won’t be having his freedom curtailed charged as a war criminal and doing a stretch in Belmarsh.


Emily said...

I agree with this completely, thanks for the post.

Louisefeminista said...

Hey thanks Emily,

The other issue which occurs to me is how are they actually going to monitor whether someone is taking their medication. If someone does decide to come off their meds then how will they know? Will people be trusted to take their own meds but if they can be trusted then why do they need a CTO? Will people have to have a blood test to check they are taking their meds.

I know under the current system where that has happened to people I know if they don't take their meds like good little people then they will be sectioned.

To have your freedom of choice and civil liberties threatened like that is frightening.

People come off meds for whole different reasons such as nasty side effects to deciding it is not right for them. And contrary to stereotypes people don't become all violent and "psychotic" over night. The problem is that psychiatry is utterly obsessed with the medical model and medication is seen as some kind of panacea.

Again, this Bill is predicated around the idea that everyone knows what is best for you and if you don't comply then.....

Even looking at how other countries use CTOs is not really helpful though useful as a gauge but still need to know what this Government has planned and how these CTOs will function.