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Mental health discrimination act

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Psychiatric doctors, mental health professionals and campaigners who have personal experience of mental health distress have coordinated a huge campaign to get this new act brought into law and Mind charity for mental health have described the Mental Health Discrimination Act 2013 that became law in February of this year as a big step forward in challenging the prejudice that still surrounds people who experience mental health difficulties.

What is the mental health discrimination act?

Old laws still in place have meant that up until now legislation has given out a strong message that people who experience mental health distress can never recover and cannot be trusted to take part in social, economic or political life. There are no equivalent laws that relate to a person’s physical capability.

Helping to protect you

The main aims of the new act is to create a legal protection for individuals who are discriminated against on the basis of their mental health  send a very strong anti-stigma message to organisations and larger institutions like education and politics. It relates particularly to three areas – serving on a jury; being a director of a company and holding a parliamentary seat.

Stop discrimination

Up until this new legislation anyone who had a mental health condition was not allowed to serve on a jury even if they wanted to and felt well enough to. Similarly a person who either currently or historically experienced mental health distress and was the director of a company ran a huge risk of losing their job on the grounds that their mental health condition made them unsuitable for that level of responsibility. Lastly if they had been voted in as an MP and then went through a period of mental health distress that resulted in being detained under the mental health act for over six months they would have automatically have lost their seat even if they’d made a full recovery.

These situations illustrate how prejudice our society still is to the area of mental health. Lots of people feel frightened of mental health conditions because they do not fully understand that individuals are still very capable of functioning and contributing even if they experience mental health distress at certain times in their lives.

mental health discrimination act

Changes

The act will now challenge these situations and bring in legal protection for anyone who experiences discrimination on these grounds.  It also aims to send out a very clear message that any discrimination against someone of the basis of health is fundamentally wrong, thereby challenging and hopefully ending the stigma that is attached to mental health.

The main changes are that it is now no-one will be ineligible for jury service. There may be specific times when it is not suitable for someone to be on a jury such as when they are in staying in hospital and if you feel strongly concerned that you do not feel able to serve on a jury because of your mental health condition you can ask for a letter of support from your GP or psychiatrist.

Mental health charities are saying that whilst this is a fantastic and important step there is still lots of work to be done to combat the discrimination that people face in work and in the world. If you would like to read more about the new law you can check out the Mind website and if you would like to get involved in campaigning for equal rights for people with mental health conditions you can also look at Mind campaigns.

 

 

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About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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