Reform the Mental Health Act

What is the Mental Health Act, 2001?

The Mental Health Act, 2001, is legislation that governs the rights of people who are admitted and treated in an in-patient facility for mental health care. The Government is due to reform the Act in 2024.

Why should the Mental Health Act, 2001 be reformed?

The Mental Health Act, 2001 is outdated, it does not comply with international human rights standards, and does not adequately protect people’s rights.

The reform of the Act is a key step in the transition towards person-centred, recovery-focused services, as set out in our national mental health policy, Sharing the Vision. We now have an opportunity to be world leaders in the delivery of mental health legislation that adequately protects people’s human rights, and respects their will and preferences.

The Government has promised to reform the Act for over seven years now, it is a commitment in the Programme for Government and it is time to hold them accountable.

Join us in calling for:

It’s essential that we protect the rights of children and ensure they receive age-appropriate care. Admitting children to adult inpatient units is not acceptable and must be addressed in the reformed Mental Health Act. However,  Head 128 of the Draft Heads of Bill allows for children under 18 years to be admitted to approved adult inpatient facilities. Concluding observations from UNCRC state that the Committee is seriously concerned about Ireland’s practice of admitting children to adult units.

It’s crucial that people have access to someone who can help them understand their rights, navigate the mental health system, and help them advocate for their needs. People receiving mental health care on a voluntary basis currently do not have basic rights to information and advocacy. This can leave them feeling unsupported and without a voice in their own care. 

Currently, young people aged 16 and 17 cannot consent to or refuse mental health care, even though they can do so for physical health care. This is a significant gap in their rights and can impact their ability to access appropriate treatment. For more information, please see the Mental Health (Capacity To Consent To Treatment) Bill 2018 and 2021 and related debates.

An Advanced Healthcare Directive is an important tool for individuals to have control over their healthcare decisions.  The recently commenced Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Act 2022 enshrines this as a right. However, under this legislation, some people with mental health difficulties who are detained under Section 3(1)(b) of the Mental Health Act, 2001 have been excluded and do not have the right to have their advance wishes about treatment respected. This discriminatory exclusion needs to be addressed in the reform of the Mental Health Act, 2001 as promised by the Government.

Article 25 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) says that people have a right to care as close to their own community as possible. Sharing the Vision states that our “…mental health system should deliver a range of integrated activities to promote positive mental health in the community; it should intervene early when problems develop; and it should enhance the inclusion and recovery of people who have complex mental health difficulties” (p. 16). Involuntary detention should be a last resort and alternative support systems should be explored wherever possible.

Individuals with complaints relating to mental health services must have confidence that their complaints be handled fairly and impartially. This needs to be separate from the existing HSE “Your Service, Your Say” complaints mechanism and available for both children and adults. For more information on the need for an independent complaints mechanism, please see the Human Rights Analysis of the Draft Heads of Bill.

What do we need?

  • Full reform of the Mental Health Act, 2001
  • Human Rights, UNCRPD and UNCRC compliant legislation
  • Priority scheduling of the Draft Reform Bill in early 2024

Get involved

There are a number of ways you can get involved in our campaign to reform the Mental Health Act, 2001:



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