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January 15, 2010

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Law repeal wanted to reduce mental-health stigma

A parliamentary committee has backed a change in the law regarding the

disqualification of MPs detained under the Mental Health Act.

A new report published on 11 January by the Speaker’s Conference — a rare committee, chaired by the House of Commons Speaker, brought together to consider issues in the electoral system — highlights that an MP automatically loses his or her seat in Parliament if they are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 for a period of six months or more.

The provision, which is set out under s141 of the Act, has no equivalent in the case of an MP faced with a physical illness. Moreover, the charity Rethink considers that s141 is in breach of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, owing to a lack of “provision for any hearing and no locus for the MP to represent themselves”.

Although the s141 provision has never been used, the committee heard from several witnesses who pointed out that its very existence meant that mental health carried an unjust stigma. This is supported by a survey carried out in 2008 on behalf of the All-Party Group on Mental Health, which showed that MPs had a significant experience of mental distress, but were worried about disclosing this because of fear of the stigma and discrimination attached to it.

Describing s141 as “unnecessary and damaging”, the Committee concluded that it “embodies attitudes which stigmatise and sap the confidence of people with mental illness” and “should be repealed as soon as practicable”.

The committee also recommended that an information pack and supporting guidance on the House’s occupational health services should be sent to all MPs immediately after each General Election.

Asked in Prime Minister’s Questions on 13 January whether the law would be changed, Gordon Brown said that both the Justice Secretary Jack Straw and the Health Secretary Andy Burnham were “giving careful consideration to the appropriate way forward”.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists welcomed the Speaker’s Conference proposal to repeal section 141. Consultant psychiatrist, Dr Tony Zigmond, said: “Taking this action would ensure that there is no place for discrimination against mental health in Parliament and demonstrate that someone with a mental-health problem can recover and lead an active role in political life.”

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.

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