Delay in legislation risks human rights violations

Mental Health Reform, the national coalition on mental health in Ireland, has this week launched a campaign calling on the Government to urgently update Ireland’s mental health law in order to protect the basic rights of people with mental health difficulties. Backed by its 74 member organisations, the umbrella group are calling for the immediate publication of draft legislation that will update the Mental Health Act, 2001.

Speaking about the campaign, Senior Policy and Research Officer, Kate Mitchell said, “The Mental Health Act is significantly out of line with international human rights law and does not adequately protect the rights of people who go into hospital for mental health treatment. For over 4 years now, the Government has been drafting legislation to update the Act. The protracted delays in publication of this legislation are completely unacceptable. People who need inpatient treatment for their mental health difficulty cannot wait any longer for their rights to be protected.”

Ms Mitchell continued, “We know from a recent survey published by Mental Health Reform that many people using mental health services do not feel that they are being treated with dignity and respect, and they do not feel that they have enough choice and control over their mental health treatment, such as the medications they are given. Successive Governments have repeatedly failed to meet their own timetable for updating the Mental Health Act. Each day this legislation is delayed, is another day that people are at risk of having their human rights violated.”

Ms Mitchell concluded, “The current Mental Health Act, 2001 is not in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) or the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), despite Ireland ratifying the UNCRPD last year. Legislation to reform the Mental Health Act needs to be published now. People need to be assured that their rights will be protected when in hospital so that they can confidently seek help when they need it.”

More detailed information about the Mental Health Act, 2001 can be found in this Briefing Note.


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