Reform the Mental Health Act

Why do we need to reform the Act? 

People cannot wait any longer to have their rights protected.

The Mental Health Act, 2001 is outdated, it does not comply with international human rights standards, and does not adequately protect people’s rights.

That is why Mental Health Reform are campaigning for the full and urgent reform of the Mental Health Act, 2001.

What are some of the gaps in current legislation?

  • Guiding Principles for Children: There are currently no specific guiding principles for children under the 2001 Act.
  • Individual Care or Recovery Plans: Individuals do not yet have a statutory right to individual care or recovery plan.
  • Advocacy & Information: Voluntary patients still do not have basic rights to information and advocacy.
  • Capacity to Consent for 16 and 17 year olds: Currently, people aged 16 and 17 can consent or refuse to physical health care decisions but this does not apply to mental health care decisions. 
  • Advanced Healthcare Directives: Involuntary patients do not have the right to have their advance wishes about treatment respected.

What is needed? 

  • The full reform of the Mental Health Act, 2001
  • The draft changes to the legislation to be published in full before the end of 2019
  • A timeline for how this legislation will progress through the Oireachtas

A full outline of the need to Reform the Mental Health Act, 2001 is outlined in Mental Health Reform’s Briefing Note.

Click the button below to read the Briefing Note. 

What has happened so far?

The Mental Health Act, 2001 was commenced in July, 2001. 

The Mental Health Act, 2001 is the law in Ireland that must be followed when a person goes into hospital for mental health treatment.

These laws outline the process for people being admitted and treated in mental health services, and a person’s rights when admitted to a mental health service.

You can read the Mental Health Act (2001) in full here.

Mental Health Reform has advocated for the publication of the new legislation that will update the Mental Health Act in line with Expert Group recommendations.

The Expert Review Group made 165 recommendations that they felt were needed to update the Act.

Since the publication of their report, only 2 of the 165 changes recommended by the Expert Review Group has been made.

You can read Mental Health Reform’s analysis of the Expert Group Review’s Report here.

You can read the Expert Group Review of the Mental Health Act, 2001 Report here

In 2016, we were successful in campaigning for the removal of the word ‘unwilling’ from Sections 59 and 60 of the Mental Health Act.

The removal of the word ‘unwilling’ meant that Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and medication (administered for over three months) could only be administered to an involuntary patient without their consent, where it could been determined that the person is unable to consent to the treatment. 

You can read that amendment to the Act here.

In 2018, Mental Health Reform supported a Bill by Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Mental Health, James Browne, TD, entitled, the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2017.

The Bill sought to make certain small but very important changes to the Mental Health Act.

This included introducing a definition of a ‘voluntary patient’ to include only people who have capacity to make their own decisions (with support if required) and who do give their consent to admission to hospital. With the support of Mental Health Reform, our members and our supporters, this Bill was passed into law and became the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2018.

You can read Mental Health Reform’s analysis of the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2018 here.

You can read the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2018 here

Get involved

  • Share posts about the campaign to Reform the Mental Health Act on social media using #ReformMHAct
  • Contact your local TD or representative to keep up political pressure and get their support
  • Donate to continue the campaign


Together, we can make a difference and get people the rights they are entitled to and the reforms we need to mental health laws!



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