NUS condemns mental health gay changes

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The National Union of Students has expressed concerns over proposals for amendments to the Mental Health Act 1983, describing them as “draconian”, and “out of touch with the needs of mental health service users today.”

NUS views the mental health system as in desperate need of reform, and feels the focus should be on service user involvement, funding and the social model of mental illness.

The bill outlined yesterday includes a worryingly broad new definition of those suffering from mental ill health entitled ‘mental disorder’.

Other elements of concern include the removal of legislation which protects lesbian, gay and bisexual people from being detained solely on the grounds of their sexuality, and the eradication of the role of an ‘approved social worker’ being a counter signatory to a patient being sectioned, alongside a ‘responsible medical officer’.

NUS Vice President (Welfare), Veronica King said: “The government has today not only let down mental health service users, it has let down society as a whole. These draconian proposals do not respect basic human rights and are likely to draw widespread condemnation.

1 in 4 students suffer from mental ill health and the very broad new definition as cited in the draft amendment could result in many of those being sectioned under the act, at the discretion of individual clinicians.”

NUS Disabled Students’ officer, Alex Kemp, said: “We know only too well the discrimination that Black and minority ethnic service users have experienced in the mental health system. To extend the definition of those who can be sectioned is ridiculous when the system is still rife with discrimination and oppression.

“We are particularly concerned that the social effects of mental health could now be ignored given the fact that those trained in social oppression (social workers) could now no longer be party to a section. We fully support the British Association of Social Workers in their call for fully trained, experienced social workers to be a party to all mental health detentions.”

NUS LGBT officer, Claire Anderson, said: “The Mental Health Act 1983 provided vital protection from homophobia in the mental health system. It is ridiculous and regressive that this government, which has a good record on LGBT rights, is considering removing this important protection.

“NUS was happy to congratulate the government for scrapping their unpopular attempts at reform earlier this year. However, these new amendments fly in the face of that earlier decision, creating yet worse legislation, which NUS is committed to campaigning against.”