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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Royal College of Psychiatrists welcomes mental health debate and Bill to tackle mental health discrimination

Embargoed until 15 June 2012

Yesterday saw an historic Parliamentary debate where MPs from all political parties discussed mental health in the main chamber of the House of Commons.

Nicky Morgan MP opened the debate by saying: "It is at least four years, and probably slightly longer, since the general topic of mental health was debated in Chamber. That is a long time, given that 25% of the population—one in four people—will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives.

"Mental health comes at an economic and social cost to the UK economy of £105 billion a year, yet mental health has been a Cinderella service—poorly funded compared with other conditions and not spoken about nearly enough either inside or outside this House. It is the largest single cause of disability, with 23% of the disease burden of the NHS, yet the NHS spends only l1% of its budget on mental health problems."

Professor Sue Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: "The College welcomed the debate on mental health and I was overwhelmed by the honesty and openness with which the topic was discussed by MPs.  A full debate on mental health was long overdue and never before have parliamentarians spoken so openly about mental health issues that have affected them personally. I hope that this is one further step along the road to ensuring everyone can be open about mental health without fear of stigma."

The debate also saw Gavin Barwell MP announce that we would be using his Private Members’ Bill to champion the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill and to lead it through Parliament to become law.

The Bill will:

  • Remove the blanket ban that forbids “mentally disordered persons” regularly attending for treatment undertaking jury service.
  • Amend legislation which states that a person might cease to be a director of a public or private company “by reason of their mental health”.
  • Remove legislation under which an MP automatically loses their seat if they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act for more than six months.

A rule by which school govenors might lose their position on account of mental health was in the previous verseion of this Bill, which was introduced into the House of Lords in 2011. The College is pleased that the government has now acted to remove that discriminatory provision.

Mr Barwell, Member of Parliament for Croydon Central, commented: "The main purpose of my Bill is to send a very clear message that having a mental health problem is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s like any other kind of health problem, and that you shouldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of law."

Professor Sue Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, added: "We are delighted these archaic and unfair rules are being tackled. The College has worked closely on this Bill and we are proud to be involved in the campaign. The Government has already voiced its commitment to removing the stigma associated with mental health problems and we are pleased that the government has again reiterated its support for this Bill. The fact that you can be turned down for jury service, or be removed from your job as an MP or company director because of mental health problems, is discriminatory and outdated."

The Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill was first introduced in April 2011, by Lord Stevenson. At the Bill’s second reading in the Lords on Friday 25 November 2011 it received the support of the government but unfortunately ran out of Parliamentary time.


For further information, please contact:
Sarah Nevins
Press & Social Media Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2543
Claire McLoughlin
Media & Communications Manager 
Telephone: 020 3701 2544
Out of hours contact number: 07860 755896


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