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Discussion of compulsory treatment welcomed

Media Release

6 March 2006

Discussion of compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act welcomed

The Ministry of Health welcomes the discussion promoted by the Mental Health Commission about the extent of compulsory treatment orders issued under the Mental Health Act.

The Deputy Director of Mental Health Dr Jeremy Skipworth says that balance is important in this debate, and notes that New Zealand's mental health legislation recognises that there is a need for balancing the interests of the patient with those of their family and the community.

"Most of those under compulsory treatment orders in New Zealand are in the community and recent research shows the majority of patients were generally supportive of compulsory treatment orders, especially where the alternative was hospitalisation,"Dr Skipworth says.

New Zealand's rate of compulsory treatment orders is comparable with similar jurisdictions in Australia.

"When compared to New South Wales and Queensland, New Zealand has about the same rate of community based compulsory treatment orders. And when compared to the state of Victoria, New Zealand has a slightly lower rate."

The rate of community based compulsory treatment orders in New Zealand is about 40 compulsory treatment orders per 100,000 people. This represents less than 5% of Mental Health Service users.

It is important to note that there many of checks and balances under the Mental Health Act to ensure patients and compulsory powers are not misused.

"Mental health legislation only applies to those mentally unwell persons who pose a serious danger to themselves or others, or are seriously incapable of self care, and treatment can only be mandated if it is deemed to be in the interests of the patient,"Dr Skipworth says.

"Advancing human rights arguments too far could result in criminalisation of the mentally ill and greater use of forensic mental health care."

Further information about mental health and the Mental Health Act is available on the Ministry of Health website: http://www.moh.govt.nz/mentalhealth

ENDS

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