Mental Health Law - Does it affect you?

The laws on mental health services have been changed, and the Mental Health Act 2001 became law on November 1 2002. This means a lot of improvements will take place in the quality of care provided to people in Mental Health Services.

You can read the Mental Health Act 2001 online here.

A small number of people with mental health problems will need hospital admission. Some of these people may not wish to be admitted and so may be 'involuntarily detained' in an approved mental health service, to receive the treatment they need.

There are specific provisions and principles in the Mental Health Act which apply to people who are admitted involuntarily to Mental Health Services in Ireland.

Best Interest of the Person
The Mental Health Act says that when making a decision relating to the care or treatment of a person, the best interests of the person will be the most important thing to consider. Regard will be paid to the interests of other persons who may be at risk of serious harm if the decision is not made.

It also says that due regard will be given to the need to respect the right of the person to dignity, bodily integrity, privacy and autonomy. Autonomy is an important concept in healthcare. It relates to doing everything you can to make sure that the person can make personal choices about his / her treatment and is often referred to as consent.

Right to information
A person's right to information is protected under this law and their right to information is vital where there are proposals in relation to involuntarily detaining a person.

They are entitled to information on :-

  • Involuntarily detaining a person
  • Their treatment
  • Admission Orders
  • Before any decision affecting a person is made, due consideration must be given to any representations made by the person, or on his or her behalf
  • The person is entitled to be informed of the right to an independent medical examination by a consultant psychiatrist and to a review by an independent Mental Health Tribunal
  • Any person who is the subject of a review is entitled to be legally represented

Right to Review
A system of Mental Health Tribunals has been established under the Act to ensure that all those who are entitled to a review of their detention will be able to get one. Tribunal s will made up of the following members -

  • A practising barrister or solicitor
  • A Consultant Psychiatrist
  • A Lay Person

High Standards of care
The Mental Health Act demands that high standards of care are provided for people using Mental Health Services. An organisation called the Mental Health Commission has been established to make sure that services are of a good standard and make fair decisions.

The Mental Health Commission (MHC) was established in April 2002
It's job is to promote, encourage and foster the establishment and maintenance of high standards and good practices in the delivery of mental health services. It also protects the interest of any person admitted involuntarily to an Approved Centre

Contact the Mental Health Commission on Tel : 01 636 2400 or visit their website here.