The central reason for the changes in the Mental Health Act is for these changes to be an extension of the powers which already allow people whose mental illness makes them a threat to themselves or others to be detained and, if necessary, forcibly treated. In this way CTOs may contribute to the stigma towards mental health problems by reinforcing the belief that a person with a mental illness is a threat.
For someone to be put on a compulsory treatment order (CTO), an application has to be submitted to a Tribunal by a mental health officer. The Tribunal itself is made up of a panel of three people:
- A lawyer;
- A psychiatrist;
- A person with other skills and experience, e.g. a nurse, social worker, or someone with personal experience of a mental disorder.
Critics of the compulsory treatment orders are dubious of the scheme's ethics, and are concerned because it has not been shown to work in other countries. Mental health charities say the powers are excessive, will not improve people's health and could be misused.
Simon Lawton Smith, of the Mental Health Foundation said:
'This may help a small number of individuals... but taking away anyone's right to treatment is questionable.'
'No-one with a physical health problem is compelled to take their medication, even if not taking it might be life threatening.'
Treatment orders have also faced criticism under the claim that a large contributing factor to them being put in place is to save money on hospital beds. However, Professor Louis Appleby, the national clinical director for mental health, and the man driving the introduction of the new powers, said it was "completely untrue" to suggest they were motivated by potential financial savings.
Compulsory treatment orders have already been in effect in Scotland since October 2005.
Do you think these changes to the Mental Health Act have been thought through? Do you think they will help people and improve quality of life? Or, will it only contribute towards the stigma and discrimination?