Greater compulsion in mental health care is not the way to prevent tragedies, says Alliance

15 September 2006

A right to assessment for services and better care, not more compulsion, is the best way to prevent tragic deaths involving people who use mental health services, the Mental Health Alliance said today.

Responding to the Government’s Review of Homicides by People with Severe Mental Illness, the Alliance said: "Homicides by people with mental health problems are rare but tragic events. Learning from them is important. Today’s report shows that better care, communication and risk assessment are vital in the cases of people with a long history of violence. But the Alliance calls on the Government to admit to the public that it cannot eradicate all risk from the mental health system.

"The review recommends limited powers of compulsion in the community for people with a history of violence. The Alliance has consistently argued that compulsion in the community is only likely to be useful for a very small group of people in strictly limited conditions. Our concern remains that government proposals for supervised community treatment in the Mental Health Act are too broad, too restrictive and too lengthy.

"Evidence shows that early intervention and properly resourced services help increase the likelihood of relapse and the use of compulsion.

We call on the Government to rethink its plans to increase compulsion in the community and instead commit itself to providing an appropriate level of care and support for mental health service users and their families. There should be a duty on mental health services to assess and meet the needs of people with mental health problems when they ask for help."