Mental health and human rights – an assessment

As part of the Disability Action Plan 2014–2018, the Ministry of Health was asked to explore how the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 (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.

The Ministry undertook the work in partnership with Balance Aotearoa, one of seven disabled people’s organisations which worked with government on the co-design of the Disability Action Plan.  

The work was also informed by an external reference group representing tangata whaiora/service user, family and whānau, service provider, academic and clinical perspectives and by relevant research and literature.

Targeted consultation was undertaken on a discussion document, The Mental Health Act and Human Rights. We were particularly interested in getting a tangata whaiora/service user perspective so that we could better understand the impacts of the Mental Health Act on those who are subject to it. Sixty eight submissions were received from a range of organisations and individuals, with around a half of submissions from tangata whaiora/service users and family and whānau.

The feedback is informing existing and ongoing work programmes to improve mental health services and to enhance the rights and experience of those who come under the Mental Health Act.

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