What is the Mental Health Act?

The Mental Health Act sets out:

  • When and how people can be treated if they have a mental disorder
  • When people can be treated or taken into hospital against their will
  • What a person's rights are, and the safeguards which ensure that these rights are protected

The review

Clare Haughey, Minister for Mental Health in the Scottish government, highlights the multifaceted nature of the independent review of the MHA. On 19th March, she told the Scottish Parliament that the review will examine current legislation to ensure that the following points are reflected, considered, and enacted:

Human rights

  • The MHA must follows a human rights-based approach
  • It must protect and respect internationally recognised laws
  • People's social, cultural, and economic status - and how this affects access to mental health services - must be protected by law

Decision making/capacity

  • Those affected by mental health issues have a say in their care and have their preferences considered
  • People are encouraged to think about how their wishes would be enacted if they could not enact them themselves
  • A supported decision-making strategy for adults subject to incapacity legislation must be in place
  • The intersection between adults subject to both incapacity and mental health legislation is re-examined

Patient vulnerability

  • The role of restraint, isolation, and segregation is re-assessed and legislation configures it as a last resort
  • The vulnerability of those subject to the MHA is recognised
  • The confusing nature of the different Acts is recognised and demystified for patients and carerers (MHA, Adults with Incapacity Act, or the Adult Support and Protection Act)

Role of professionals

  • There is an increased accountability of professionals and institutions that are responsible for respecting, protecting, and fulfilling rights
  • Developments in mental health law and practice are reflected
  • Appropriate training, support, and supervision is given to guardians, attorneys, and health/social care/legal professionals
  • There is greater involvement with third sector organisations

The review will be stakeholder driver and evidence led. Through a full public consultation, views will be gathered from as wide a range of people possible. 

There is yet to be a confirmed time scale of the review due to its scale. This review follows on from work already underway to review incapacity law and practice and its intersection with learning disability and autism.

Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey said:

"We must have the voice of lived experience at the heart of the review.

“The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to bringing change to people’s lives and ensuring that mental health is given parity with physical health. This review of the Mental Health Act will take this a step further, reaffirming our commitment to creating a modern, inclusive Scotland which protects and respects human rights. The time is right to examine these issues so that our laws fully reflect our ambitions and the needs of those our laws are intended to support.

“As part of the review we want to gather views from as wide a range of people as possible and I am determined to ensure that the views of service users, those with lived experience and those that care for them are front and centre so they can help shape the future direction of our legislation.”

Mental health in Scotland: research highlights men's hesitance to seek support

Mental health charity Samaritans conducted research in Scotland examining men's mental health, and the results paint a bleak picture. Key statistics include:

  • More than a third of men in Scotland (36%) aged 20-59 do not seek support when they need to because they prefer to solve their problems themselves
  • Whilst 80% of men in Scotland say it’s okay to admit you’re not feeling okay, many still avoid speaking out when they’re finding life tough
  • Men in Scotland cited a number of reasons why they’ve struggled in the past, including debt or financial worries (28%), relationship breakdown or family problems (28%), loneliness or isolation (23%) and job loss or job-related problems (22%).

Samaritans is launching a campaign, supported by National Rail, called Real People, Real Stories. The campaign sees men who have overcome tough times sharing their stories to encourage other men, aged 20-59 -years, who are most at risk of suicide, to seek help by contacting Samaritans 24/7 free on 116 123 or at samaritans.org.

The campaign is backed by current Kilmarnock and former Scotland striker, Kris Boyd, who lost his brother to suicide. He says: “There is still a lot of stigma that can make it hard for men to open up about mental health. My experience losing my brother to suicide has made me more determined to do what I can to encourage others to reach out when they’re struggling. And we can all be a part of making that change, by taking the time to talk when we’re struggling or when we know someone who is, by being that listening ear or a shoulder to lean on. I hope that by sharing my story I can let other men know, you don’t have to struggle alone.”

The campaign will have a presence in some of Scotland’s major train stations, with additional posters in Glasgow and Dundee.

James Jopling, Executive Director of Samaritans Scotland, said:

“It’s clear that too many men in Scotland continue to struggle alone. While our survey found 80% of men in Scotland say it’s ok to admit you’re not feeling okay, many still avoid speaking out when they’re finding life tough. A quarter of men in Scotland said they felt their problems weren’t important enough to warrant calling a helpline, which is one of the reasons this awareness campaign is so important.

“By sharing positive and hopeful stories, we want to send the message to men in Scotland, that whatever they’re going through, they don’t need to face it on their own. Speaking openly and honestly about what you’re experiencing – whether it’s with a loved one, a friend or through a confidential and non-judgemental service like Samaritans – can make real difference.”