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

World Suicide Prevention Day

The College has been very active in this area with a number of projects well under way, including the launch today of a new film, U Can Cope. We are involved in a coalition of more than one hundred UK organisations - from mental health bodies to the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the Rugby Players' Association - to spread the message that it is possible to overcome suicidal thoughts and feelings and that there are many resources available to help those who are struggling to cope. We also hope to do some more work directly with YoungMinds in the near future.

But all these positives do not sit well alongside what is happening about assessments for benefits for people with mental illness.  We hope we will be able to make more progress with the new Minister at the Department of Work and Pensions, Mark Hoban.  We have been hearing about very distressing accounts coming through, from the feedback on our leaflets for the general public, with requests for help and about the dreadful impact the removal of benefits is having on people and their families. They have also been describing a process that lacks any understanding of its impact on people with mental illness, and which in itself becomes abusive.

We are not alone in these concerns.  Colleagues at the Royal College of General Practitioners give similar accounts, as do CEOs and Chairs of Mental Health Trusts. What an utter tragedy if the way one government Department acts mitigates against all the positive work the Department of Health has done working with professionals and NGOs on suicide prevention.   

This Friday sees the second reading in the Commons of the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill, which would repeal three outdated and discriminatory regulations and send a strong message that stigma and discrimination on the grounds of mental ill health is not acceptable.

The Bill aims to:

  • Remove the blanket ban that forbids people who suffer or have suffered from a mental disorder or 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.

As you will know, the College has worked closely on this Bill and we are proud to be involved in the campaign to tackle these archaic and unfair rules. 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 and I am encouraging everyone to contact their MP to ensure a message is sent that discrimination on the grounds of mental health is not acceptable.

 

Thanks to colleagues that have already written to your MP urging them to support this Bill, and if you haven’t seen it already please take some time to watch the short film that we made with Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.

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