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May would scrap Mental Health Act and better support services if re-elected

Prime minister Theresa May has pledged to scrap the Mental Health Act 1983 and introduce a new Mental Health Treatment Bill if she is re-elected on 8 June.

May said her new law would confront discrimination and unnecessary detentions under the existing act which is “outdated and unfit for purpose”.

She said: “On my first day in Downing Street last July, I described shortfalls in mental health services as one of the burning injustices in our country.

“It is abundantly clear to me that the discriminatory use of a law passed more than three decades ago is a key part of the reason for this.

“So I am pledging to rip up the 1983 Act and introduce in its place a new law which finally confronts the discrimination and unnecessary detention that takes place too often.”

The number of people detained under the Mental Health Act has risen by about 30% in recent years from 48,600 in 2011-12 to 63,600 in 2015-16.

Black people are up to six times more likely to be detained under the existing act, Downing Street said.

It is intended that the Mental Health Treatment Bill will:

  • Revise the thresholds for detention, to prevent it being over-used;
  • Introduce new codes of practice to reduce the disproportionate use of mental health detention for minority groups; and
  • Improving safeguards so that when people with mental health problems have the capacity to give or refuse consent, they can never be treated against their will.

May also said she would reform the Equality Act 2010 so that employees are no longer only protected from discrimination over mental health problems such as depression and anxiety if they have the condition more than a year.

She would employ 10,000 more staff in the mental health sector by 2020.

Her government would also invest £2m to expand the secondary school mental health first aid programme announced in January into primary schools as well, and provide each school with a single point of contact with mental health services.

There would be changes to the curriculum to include more information about mental wellbeing – specifically in relation to staying safe online and cyber bullying.

And Health and Safety at Work regulations would be changed to require large organisation to train mental health first responders as well as physical first aiders.

Labour’s shadow mental health minister Barbara Keeley said: “The Tories have not delivered on their promise to give mental health the same priority as physical health. They appear to be offering no extra funding and have consistently raided mental health budgets over the last seven years.

“Warm words from the Tories will not help to tackle the injustice of unequal treatment in mental health.”

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