Reform the Mental Health Act

Get your Act together

Ireland’s Mental Health Act needs to be updated urgently so that people who need to go to hospital for mental healthcare have their rights adequately protected and they can feel safe accessing the mental health services they require.

You can get involved in our campaign to reform the Mental Health Act in the following ways:

  • Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook
  • Contact your local TD here and get them to support the campaign

Why change it?

People who need to go to hospital for mental health treatment in Ireland do not have their rights adequately protected under the Mental Health Act, 2001. The Act is old and in need of urgent update. The Mental Health Commission, in a recent report, found that some service users feel coerced, disempowered and unsupported when being admitted to a psychiatric inpatient unit and that this had a long-term negative impact on their recovery. 

In 2015, an expert group reviewed the Mental Health Act, 2001, and made 165 recommendations that they felt were needed to update the Act. Since the publication of their report, only 1 change of the 165 changes recommended by the Expert Group has been made to the Act.

People cannot wait any longer to have their rights protected.

What has happened so far?

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. You can read more about that 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.

You can read the Bill here.

You can read Mental Health Reform’s analysis of the Bill here.

A lot left to do..

While the passage of the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2015 and the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2017 have been very welcome, there is still a lot left to do to make sure the Mental Health Act is in line with international human rights law. 

  • Voluntary patients still do not have basic rights to information and advocacy.
  • Involuntary patients do not have the right to have their advance wishes about treatment respected.
  • Individuals do not yet have a statutory right to individual care/recovery plans.
  • For children and young people, 16 and 17 year olds have no legal right to consent to admission and/or mental health treatment, and,
  • There are currently no specific guiding principles for children under the 2001 Act. 

People cannot wait any longer to have their rights protected. Join the campaign.



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