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Users and survivors protest against the Mental Health Bill

Dear Voices Forum

Users and survivors protest against the Mental Health Bill

As you may know, this government is currently pushing for controversial reforms of the 1983 Mental Health Act. Unfortunately, some of the changes suggested have caused almost universal concern amongst psychiatric survivors, user groups, mental health charities, the mental health professions and legal specialists.

One example is the Community Treatment Order (CTO). Under such a compulsory order, a person would be obliged to take medication within the community. If they refused they could be sectioned and have the drugs forcibly administered, regardless of their emotional state. The person could also be required to live at a specific location and attend certain places at certain times.

At present, compulsion is limited by the number of beds available in hospitals. If compulsory treatment in the community becomes law, then such limits will be removed, potentially leaving the way clear for thousands more people to be medicated against their will, outside of the hospital environment. Other proposals have also caused concern, such as that to detain some people diagnosed with a severe personality disorder for potentially indefinite periods, even if they've never committed a violent crime.

If such proposals make it into law, they will radically worsen the way that people with severe mental stress are treated by both society and the mental health system. However, this government appears determined to victimise those of us who've been diagnosed with mental health problems. Although the draft Bill was temporarily postponed from the Queen's speech last year, recent comments by ministers reveal a desire to push forward with many of the more draconian aspects of the Bill, however it's redrafted.

With this in mind, a number of psychiatric users and survivors got together and formed a group called 'Protest against the Mental Health Bill', (PAB for short). We have two main projects:

Firstly, a conference on 20 September 2003 in London at Bloomsbury Baptist Church, Shaftesbury Ave.

This will be run by psychiatric users and survivors, and will promote the direct and powerful voices of people who suffer from severe mental stress. All the speakers will be people who've had direct experience of mental health problems. There'll also be plenty of discussion and information sharing amongst all the attendees. (Entry 1)

The other project is called 'Send a message in a bottle'. We're asking people to send in their empty psychiatric medication boxes and bottles, along with messages of protest against increased compulsion. These will be displayed at the conference and then presented to the government.

For more information, email info@outcryconference.co.uk or visit on the web: www.outcryconference.co.uk

Symon - was http://www.btinternet.com/~symon.price/