3 November 1999

Cool Britannia's new approach to mental illness

by Kate Melville

In Britain a government proposal to detain indefinitely people with dangerous severe personality disorders has been proposed as an 'extension' to mental health services, but has been described by an Australian psychiatrist as an unethical proposal for the preventive detention.

Psychiatrist Professor Paul Mullen, wrote in a recent editorial of the British Medical Journal that the UK Government paper framework for the Future was simply intended to circumvent the European Human Rights Convention that forbids preventive arrest except in those with an unsound mind (what ever that means). Professor Mullen said, "With their (the UK government's), promises of new research funding they are trying to coerce doctors into acting complicity in the indefinite detention of certain selected offenders.

"There is a crying need for mental health services for severely personality disordered individuals. The British Government's proposals largely ignore the central issue of developing appropriate treatment services in favour of creating a system for locking up men and women who frighten officials".

This is a pretty frightening approach to what should be an attempt to help the mentally ill rather than just banging them up. Quite how this fits the 'Cool Britannia' image of Tony Blair's government is hard to see.