End Mental Health Discrimination: Repeal Section 141

One in four people in this country will suffer from a mental health problem at some point in their lives. Rethink, a national mental health charity, conducted a survey on MPs mental health last year. They found that 11% of MPs had suffered personally from a mental health problem. Yet not one is prepared to speak publicly.

In part this is undoubtedly to with the stigma that surrounds mental health. But there is also a clause in the Mental Health Act which states that any MP who is sectioned is removed from their seat, with no provision to return. There is no such provision for any physical health problem. This is clearly a discriminatory clause and it strengthens the stigma around mental health.

Make no mistake about it, that stigma is the same stigma that leads people to suffer alone and in silence, pretending that everything’s okay and avoiding seeking treatment, leading to furthur tragedies. We need to break down this stigma, which is why I’m supporting Rethink’s camapign to abolish section 141. To me this clause sends out clear message that if you have suffered from mental health problems in the past your contribution is not welcome in public life. That simply doesn’t make sense. The people whose voices are most often lost in the system are those of the patients. Anyone who has seen the mental health system through their own eyes will have a valuable insight into possible reform, and a way to change the tragedy that has unfolded in our society.

I can also well imagine that section 141 is an extra barrier to talking about mental health publicly for MPs. People who are suffering at the moment need to know that they are not alone and that you can recover and make a positive contribution to society. I know that because I’ve been there, genuinely believing that there was no hope, no chance of any kind of a life. But I’m lucky. I recovered and got myself into a position where I could potentially help others.

When it comes down to it I believe that you can judge how decent a society is by how it treats it’s most vulnerable members. We have an opportunity to send out a clear message. Section 141 should be abolished.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Parliament.
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6 Comments

  • I very much agree with this article, and I also commend you Patrick for admitting your own troubles in this area of health.
    Robson’s comments are, in part, fair, as it is not always approriate that a member should still have say on legislative processes whilst in the middle of a breakdown, yet the blanket approach in this instance is, I believe, unjust.
    I do need to stand up and be counted as another former mental health patient, who has been blessed to now be in recovery.

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