Three leading mental health organisations have joined forces to
urge MPs to vote through legislation this Friday (14th September)
which will scrap outdated laws that discriminate against people
with mental health problems.
In a letter published in The Times
charities Rethink Mental Illness and Mind, along with the Royal
College of Psychiatrists,
are calling on MPs
to back the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill.
If voted through, it will put an end to
archaic laws which interfere with the rights of people
with mental health problems from participating in jury
service and becoming or
remaining a company director. The law also currently
stipulates that MPs themselves will lose their seats if sectioned
under the Mental Health Act, regardless of recovery.
Campaigners are hoping for a good turn out of
MPs to show the strength of enthusiastic cross-party support for
Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink
Mental Illness said: "It was fantastic to see so many MPs speaking
out about their own experiences of mental health problems when the
Bill was first introduced in June. The outpouring of support they
received really highlighted just how far we've come in terms
of breaking down the stigma which surrounds mental illness. I hope
MPs will seize this historic opportunity to turn words into action
by backing the Bill and putting an end to these outdated and
"It's absurd that capable, intelligent people are being excluded
from key aspects of citizenship, based purely on the fact they have
an illness. People with physical illnesses such as cancer would
never be treated in this way"
Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind said: "This Bill tackles three of the most
fundamental injustices that people with mental health problems
experience. It is important not only because it will repeal
antiquated rules that have no place in our society but also because
it sends a symbolic message to the wider public about the stigma
and discrimination that many people with mental health problems
continue to face every day. Discrimination should never be
tolerated and by removing it from law we would be one step closer
to achieving true equality for people with mental health
Professor Sue Bailey, President of the Royal
College of Psychiatrists said: "The College has worked closely with
Lord Stevenson on this legislation. We are proud that so many MPs
are supporting this Bill which goes some way to removing the stigma
associated with mental health problems, and aspects of existing
legislation that are both discriminatory and outdated."
Jack Holloway, 27, works in charity communications in London. He
was called up for jury service last year, but when he disclosed the
fact he was seeing a therapist once a week for depression and
anxiety, he was told he wasn't eligible to serve.
He says: "Some people may see jury service as a bit of a chore, but
I was keen to do my bit. I found the whole experience really quite
upsetting – to be told you're not wanted, based purely on the fact
you have a mental health problem, seems completely illogical and
unfair. I work full time and manage my condition well. Being denied
the chance to do my civic duty made me feel disenfranchised and
Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central and
sponsor of the Mental Health Discrimination Bill
said: "To our shame, the law still discriminates
against those with a mental health condition. As well as stopping
this, the Bill will also send a clear message
that discrimination is wrong: people have a right to be judged as
individuals, not labelled or stereotyped.
"Having a mental health condition is nothing to be ashamed of or to
keep a secret. It is high time we dragged the law of this land into
the 21st century. If my Private Member's Bill is approved by the
House, we will look back in a few years' time and be amazed that
the nonsense I have described was on the statute book in 2012."
Both Rethink Mental Illness and Mind are
running e-campaigns, encouraging their supporters to put pressure
on their MP to vote on Friday. So far over 1,000 people
have taken action.
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Note to editors:
The Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill was first introduced in April 2011, by Lord Stevenson of Coddenham. At the Bill’s second reading in the House of Lords on Friday 25 November 2011 it received the support of the government but unfortunately ran out of Parliamentary time. It was brought back as a Private Members Bill in June 2012 by Gavin Barwell MP. The Bill will receive its second reading on Friday, 14th September.