Government inaction causes continued delays to Mental Health Amendment Bill

Mental Health Reform, the national coalition for mental health, has criticised the government for its failure to include the Mental Health Amendment Bill as priority legislation for Spring 2024.

Due to repeated delays, there is a serious risk that the legislation will not be signed into law before the upcoming general election. The Bill remains on the priority drafting list but must be moved to the priority publication list for any progress to be made.

Fiona Coyle, CEO, Mental Health Reform commented: “For the past nine years, the Government has committed to reforming the Mental Health Act, 2001. Successive Ministers have made countless promises to prioritise the legislation however progress has been inexcusably slow.

Unless the Mental Health Amendment Bill is signed into law this year, it could lapse following the dissolution of the Dáil. The Government has been drafting this bill since 2016. The protracted delay in the publication of this legislation is completely unacceptable.

The Mental Health Amendment Bill is expected to bring about the largest overhaul of the State’s mental health laws in decades. The current Act is significantly out of step with international human rights standards including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The legislation does not adequately protect the rights of people who are admitted to hospital for mental health treatment. Our research shows that many people using mental health services do not feel that they are being treated with dignity or respect. They say they do not have enough choice or control over their mental health treatment, such as the medications they are given. Without urgent reform, people with mental health difficulties will continue to be impacted by inappropriate and outdated practices.

If the Government wants a modern and effective health system, we need to ensure a rights-based approach to mental health care. People want to be reassured that their rights will be protected when in hospital so that they can confidently seek support. We are urging the Government to publish the Mental Health Amendment Bill immediately to ensure that all necessary improvements are made and that it is signed into law before the next General Election.


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