Under the prior Mental Health Act 1983, any patient deemed a risk to themselves or others could only be detained so long as they passed a “treatability test” – meaning that a ‘suitable’ treatment had to be available for them.
Because psychiatrists admitted they were unable to “predict” violent behaviour or “treat” patients with personality disorders, patients were often released into the community without supervision and on psychiatric drugs with known side effects such as aggression, hallucination and suicidal ideation.
Some of these patients were left destitute or without care and some were unable to tolerate the intense suffering caused from the effects of drugs, and so became violent and committed serious, senseless violent crimes on unsuspecting public.
Some high profile cases of murder or murder suicide were committed by those labelled schizophrenic or mentally ill. As a result, a new ‘criteria for detention’ was pushed through parliament against a great deal of opposition.
The criteria violated individual civil rights by allowing a person to be forcibly detained, even when no crime had been committed, to ensure the peson’s compliance to taking the drugs ordered by the psychiatrist, and so a legal instrument – the Community Treatment Order – was passed into law.
This has led to any patient refusing to comply with their drug treatment, being forcibly taken to a mental health facility and held indefinitely, against their will, until the person becomes drug compliant. It was under much protest by many mental health groups, that the original treatability test was abolished and a new draconian ‘criteria for detention’ was implemented.
“Where patients are concerned, in Britain at least they are being detained at 3 times greater rate than 50 years ago. They were being admitted at a 15 times greater rate than before, and on average, patients are spending a longer time in service beds than ever before in history.” Dr David Healy – Psychopharmacology of the Government of the Self
Professor Richard Bentall, a psychologist, campaigning for “no more psychiatric labels” has this to say about the conditions in today’s psychiatric wards:
“Visiting such a ward, one sees patients with a variety of diagnoses aimlessly wandering around. Some talk out loud to their voices or charge around in a manic frenzy. However, on closer scrutiny, the overwhelming impression is one of inactivity and loneliness. Many patients sit in the ward lounge, silently smoking cigarettes, their faces glued to daytime television shows. The nurses, who now wear casual clothes instead of uniforms, spend most of their time in the nursing office, talking only to those patients who are most obviously distressed. The psychiatrists and psychologists are even less in evidence — patients on many wards see their psychiatrists for only a few minutes every week and the psychologists are almost entirely absent, confined by their own choice to outpatient clinics. There seems to be a lack of therapeutic contact between the patients and the staff. The patients are simply being ‘warehoused’ in the hope that their medication will do the trick.”
“To bereave a man of life…..without accusation or trial would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole kingdom: but confinement of the person by secretly hurrying him to gaol, where his sufferings are unknown and or forgotten, is a less public, less striking and therefore more dangerous engine of arbitrary government,” – Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England”, 1735