Increased focus on human rights in mental health care in Scotland

The Mental Welfare Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission have today published a report which aims to improve recognition of people's human rights when receiving mental health care in Scotland.

Increasing the focus on human rights is a core commitment of the Scottish Government Mental Health Strategy, 2012 – 2015. The report, Human Rights In Mental Health Care In Scotland, was delivered to the Scottish Government by both Commissions at an event today.

The report highlights key activities that 17 key organisations and services are now undertaking to progress the human rights agenda, and identifies challenges and opportunities for the future in realising people's human rights.

Read the report in PDF format.

The report also sets out a collective ambition from mental health and social care stakeholders to build consensus around human rights, so that eventually Scotland can realise the goal of building a human rights-based mental health system.

Colin McKay, chief executive, Mental Welfare Commission, said: "Scottish mental health legislation is widely admired, and reflects human rights principles, but we need to do more to ensure that people have greater influence over decisions about their care and treatment, especially at times of crisis.

"For example, Advance Statements give people with mental ill health the chance to set out how they would wish to be treated in a crisis, but they are not widely enough used. Health services can help this to change, building on new responsibilities in the Mental Health (Scotland) Act.

"We also need to pay more attention to the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which makes clear that wherever possible, people should receive support to make their own treatment choices, rather than decisions being taken for them by others."

The report contains a number of recommendations, including:

That human rights should be mainstreamed across commitments contained in the next mental health strategy from the Scottish Government.

That the human rights of people with mental health issues should be explicitly recognised in mainstream health and social care services in order to address stigma and discrimination.

That the Scottish Government remind Health Boards of the opportunities to use Advance Statements, and consider what guidance should be made to support this.

The Code of Practice accompanying the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 should be revised to embed a human rights framework.

More should be done to provide service users with accessible information about their rights prior to and during crisis points.

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health said: "As the Scottish Government’s current Mental Health Strategy comes to an end in 2015, this report helps to inform our next set of priorities and commitments. I am determined that our new mental health strategy addresses any gaps and opportunities that exist. The evidence gathered in the report will help us to do this, and to fully embed a culture of human rights in mental health care for people across Scotland. I commend all the organisations involved for their focus on this area and would encourage their continued good work.

"The Scottish Government has recently announced an additional £100m funding for mental health over the next five years. Part of this will be used to promote rights in mental health services."<br/> Cathy Asante, legal officer at the Scottish Human Rights Commission added: "Human rights offer a principled framework that can help Scotland's mental health system become more certain that people's rights are being realised. 

"The Scottish Human Rights Commission advocates that human rights are placed at the centre of decision making. We would like to see this done at all levels - when the Scottish Government designs the new Mental Health Strategy, in training staff, in making sure people can access information about their human rights at the right time, and in making sure people are supported to make decisions about their own care and treatment.

"These efforts will be much stronger if they are informed by those who feel the effects - people with lived experience of using mental health services."