Mental Health Act and human rights summary of submissions released

News article

07 December 2017

Dr John Crawshaw, Director of Mental Health, says the Ministry will be using the submissions analysis to progress work that will better safeguard the rights of those who come under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 (the Mental Health Act).

‘This work provides an opportunity to focus on the changes that are required to support recovery for those with serious mental illness, ensuring people receive adequate standards of care and monitoring, and that treatment services do not breach their rights,’ says Dr Crawshaw.

‘We are reviewing aspects of the administration of the Mental Health Act including informed consent and second opinion processes; opportunities for increasing tangata whaiora/service user involvement in care planning and decision-making, including in relation to treatment options and the use of supported decision-making approaches in mental health.’

‘We will also be exploring how to enhance engagement with families and whānau and increase cultural input to the processes under the Mental Health Act.’

The project was carried out in partnership with Balance Aotearoa, an NGO governed and staffed by people who have experienced mental health and addiction struggles. Balance Aotearoa provides advocacy and support to people with mental health issues and is a member of the Disabled People’s Organisations collective furthering various actions under the Disability Action Plan.

Frank Bristol, the Manager of Balance Aotearoa, says mental health consumers and their families and whānau have an important role in helping to shape the services they receive.

‘People using mental health services want more choice and control over their treatment and recovery. And they want the system to better respect their human rights, and support them so the impact on them and their whānau and families is minimised,’ says Mr Bristol.

As part of the Disability Action Plan 2014–2018, the Ministry of Health was asked to explore how the Mental Health Act relates to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD).

This action was included in the Disability Action Plan in response to concerns raised by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2014, the Committee undertook a review of New Zealand’s compliance with the CRPD. It expressed concerns that the Mental Health Act has been criticised for its lack of human rights principles – see the Office of Disability Issues website for more information.

Targeted consultation was undertaken and submissions were received from a range of organisations and individuals, including service users. The work was also informed by an external reference group representing tangata whaiora/service user, family and whānau, service provider, academic and clinical perspectives.

The Ministry is also working with other agencies, including the Health Quality & Safety Commission and mental health and disability workforce organisations to ensure the consultation feedback informs their work to improve the quality of mental health service delivery, including priority work to reduce and eliminate seclusion and restraint.

Read the summary of submissions at Mental health and human rights – an assessment.

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