Government should heed new warning about mental health, says The King's Fund Chief Executive

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'The government's proposed mental health legislation could exacerbate the increasingly coercive nature of mental health care,' Rabbi Julia Neuberger warned today.

Speaking at the launch of Pure Madness, by Jeremy Laurance, Julia Neuberger said:

'It is clear that prejudice and fear are playing too big a part in mental health care today. Jeremy Laurance's book paints a depressing picture of a service that is held back by a serious shortage of resources and a culture of defensive practice caused by misplaced beliefs about how to secure public safety.

'It shows that too many people are being treated in overcrowded hospital wards. And there is still far too much reliance on medication. As a result, many people's conditions are made worse rather than better by their experiences of the system.

'The government's draft Mental Health Bill would only make that worse. We fear that increased powers of incarceration and the introduction of compulsory community treatment may make professionals the shock troops of an even more coercive system than we have today. The result will be that thousands of people who need treatment will not come forward for fear of what will happen to them.

'Pure Madness contains a crystal clear message for ministers. Public safety is a criminal justice matter. Mental health is not. It needs a legal framework that ensures people get the care they need when they need it in a form that is acceptable to them.

'The exclusion of a Mental Health Bill from last week's Queen's Speech suggests that the government is now listening to the many voices that expressed opposition to the Draft Bill. I hope we can now work with the Government to create a modern legal framework for mental health.'

Notes to editors

Pure Madness: How fear drives the mental health system, by Jeremy Laurance, is published by Routledge. It is being launched at The King's Fund, 11-13 Cavendish Square, London W1 at 6pm on 18 November 2002.

For more information about the publication, or the launch event, please contact Aine Duffy on 020 7842 2117 or 07736 460575.

The King's Fund is a core member of the Mental Health Alliance, which is campaigning against the Government's proposed new legislation. For interviews with Rabbi Julia Neuberger please contact Andrew Bell on 020 7307 2585 or Daniel Reynolds on 020 7307 2581.