Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

Support the Mental Health Discrimination Bill

4 Comments

Before the Parliamentary recess, a very important private members’ bill was tabled on the floor of the House of Commons by Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell (formerly Campaign Director at Tory Central Office).

The Mental Health (Discrimination) (No.2) Bill looks to repeal two laws, which you might be astonished to read below are still legal in a civilised country, and to make an amendment to Companies Regulations which govern company directors. They are:
1. The repeal of the law which prevents a person who is voluntarily receiving regular treatment for a mental health disorder who are not in a hospital to sit on a jury; this includes someone on regular anti-depressant treatment or receiving counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy for an anxiety disorder

2. The repeal of the section of the Mental Health Act 1983 which automatically removes an MP from their seat if they have been sectioned under the act for more than six months

3. The removal of a provision in the The Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008 that many companies adopt which allow a company director to be removed if they have a mental health problem
When Gavin Barwell introduced his bill in June, two brave MPs, one Labour and one Conservative, stood up to recount their own first-hand experience of poor mental health. Tory MP Charles Walker told the House of Commons of his 30 year battle with Obsessive Compulsive Order and Labour MP Kevan Jones described his suffering with depression. You can watch Mr Walker’s and Mr Jones’ speeches below.

<!–

Both MPs patently showed that a person’s issues with mental health are not a barrier to having a successful career. In fact, Charles Walker has gone on record in a BBC interview saying his own mental health disorder has actually given him “personal strength” and he recalled how fellow mental health sufferers have told him their problems have made them more capable in their field of work not less.
The second reading of Gavin Barwell’s bill is next Friday, 14th September. Unlike the vast majority of private member’ bills this one is likely to progress to the Committee stage because reports suggest the Government will support it along with the Labour Party. In practice, this means the bill has a greater chance of becoming law and thereby ending discrimination people face when they want to do their duty as a juror or sit on a company board.

However, the bill still has a long way to go and it’s not a foregone conclusion it will become law. Therefore, I’d encourage all my readers to contact their MP to ask them to support this very important bill. To find out how to contact your MP visit ‘Theyworkforyou.com’.

Would we really tell someone who uses a wheelchair they were not worthy of sitting on a jury? Their physical health is, rightly, not an issue, why should their mental health be?
Advertisements

Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

4 thoughts on “Support the Mental Health Discrimination Bill

  1. The problem is, Gavin, one of degree. As someone who has suffered from depression, I know how debilitating it can be at the time, but how much strength can be found once you overcome it. But there are those whose mental health is questionable enough that no, I wouldn't want them sat on a jury. (There are those whose mental health is questionable enough I wouldn't want them to sit as judges either, but that's a separate story)The problem with removing the barrier is that common sense will say there has to be a barrier somewhere. It would be dangerous for someone with a severely debilitating mental illness (or any severely debilitating physical illness) to sit on a jury. Dangerous for justice. What if their illness leaves them susceptible to suggestion? Would you trust your liberty to a jury who may have serious mental capacity issues?I recognise without doubt there are serious problems and deficiencies where the current law is drawn. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere.

  2. A very good post this is a issue I feel strongly about.I thought it had a very positive effect when the politicians spoke of there experience with mental health issues.I`ve written some blogs for Time to change which works in trying to remove the stigma around mental health.It is important that people realise that a mental illness should be treated the same as physical illness and the more people speak about it the more high profile people that share their experience the more it will go towards improving understanding.I myself had struggled with depression for years but coming forward and speaking about it and blogging has been one of the best things i`ve done.I have had people approach me saying that i`ve helped them realise that there is no shame in speaking up and facing your issues.I can see why you have your concerns Ben but as I have said mental illness is the same as physical illness it is treatable and should not be a bar from anyone contributing to society

  3. Thanks for your comment Ben. Gavin Barwell is not looking to remove ALL barriers to entry to being a juror. Obviously, if someone has paranoid schizophrenia, which is currently not responding to medication, then they are not going to be allowed to sit on a jury: the law would still prevent this. But it is not right for someone on SSRI medication to treat depression or who attends weekly CBT sessions to be prevented from sitting on a jury. Depression and anxiety disorders and a whole plethora of mental illnesses, as Glen states below, are treatable. And if they are being treated successfully, then the person should have equal status with a person being treated for, say, cancer. Or do you think people with cancer should not be allowed to sit on juries?I must say your knee-jerk reaction above to find people with mental illness as a threat to justice – despite your own experience with depression – is THE reason why the Mental Health (Discrimination) (No.2) Bill must succeed.

  4. Thanks for you comment Glen. I am glad we agree wholeheartedly with each other. Please do take the opportunity to contact Ben Gummer – using the link in my post above – to urge him to support the Mental Health (Discrimination) (No.2) Bill at its second reading in the House of Commons next week. As a councillor, if you sit on Overview & Scrutiny, you can call-in mental health directors in the local NHS to question them on the work they are doing to alleviate mental health issues in the county. This might be a positive contribution O&S can make for the local community and I am sure it would have cross-party support.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s