Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health James Browne TD says that the rights of mental health patients cannot be meaningfully vindicated in the absence of advocacy services.

Deputy Browne was commenting as emergency mental health legislation, The Mental Health (Renewal Orders Bill) 2018, is set to be debated in the Oireachtas this week.

Deputy Browne said, “This legislation, which is to be rushed through the Dáil without pre-legislative scrutiny, looks to advance inpatients’ rights to seek a review of their detention.  It stems from last May’s Appeal Court ruling which found part of the Mental Health Act to be unconstitutional because it allows an involuntary patient to have their detention extended for up to 12 months without an effective or independent review within a reasonable timeframe.

“It is welcome that this issue is being addressed but many patients will lack the capacity to know that these rights exist or lack the capacity to act on their rights.

“In light of the proposed legislation there is a clear need for greater access to information on how to make a complaint and for proactive advocacy supports for those using our mental health services. This is especially the case for involuntary inpatient users of mental health services.

“These patients are deprived of their most basic human right, that of their liberty. Appropriate safeguards need to be in place to ensure that any such deprivation of liberty is no more than absolutely necessary, is done in accordance with the law and respects patients’ human rights. To achieve this, the Minister needs to ensure that the range and capacity of Ireland’s mental health advocacy services is expanded in order to meet the needs of people with long-term mental health difficulties – otherwise patients’ rights are meaningless.

“A Mental Health Reform study published in July 2017 found that only 27% of users of mental health day clinics were fully or mostly confident about raising issues with their psychiatrist. That report also found that two-thirds of patients did not know how to make a complaint. The report also found that participants were only a little confident in their ability to advocate for themselves.

“It would be reasonable to assume that inpatient users of mental health facilities would be even less capable of exercising their rights to raise issues with their psychiatrist or to make a complaint. The Minister for Health’s proposal to strengthen inpatients rights to seek a review of their detention is welcome but ultimately will be meaningless in the absence of appropriate and pro-active advocacy services for mental health patients.”