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Call for debate on mental health treatment

Monday, March 6, 2006

Mental Health Commission calls for debate on compulsory treatment

The Mental Health Commission is calling for a rethink on the use of compulsory treatment for people with mental illness.

The issue is discussed in a publication released today by the Commission.

No-Force Advocacy by Users and Survivors of Psychiatry by American human rights lawyer Tina Minkowitz looks at human rights issues related to the use of legal compulsory interventions by mental health services and related legal frameworks that restrict personal autonomy.

Following her report the Commission sought the opinions of mental health professionals and legal experts in the field in this country, Australia and the United Kingdom. Their responses to Minkowitz’s paper are included in the publication.

“The Mental Health Commission has come to the view that compulsory treatment in New Zealand, whether in the community or in an in-patient unit, is used too much. It is used too frequently, for too long, and too often it is used for the wrong reasons – not those specified in the Mental Health Act,” the Commission Chair, Ruth Harrison and Commissioner Mary O’Hagan say in their foreword to the report.

The Commission’s aim is to:

- Encourage more appropriate use of compulsory treatment
- Raise the fundamental issue of compulsory treatment, and human rights
- Place the views of service users at the centre of discussions
- Advocate against discrimination in legal processes, and the application of the law for service users
- Ensure that mental health services first do no harm

“Our goal is to promote the transformation of all medical and legal systems so they will better serve people who use mental health services.”


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