The Mental Health Foundation and the Like Minds, Like Mine programme sent a joint submission to the Ministry of Health on the updated Guidelines to the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992.
The Act and the ways it is used can play a huge part in the life trajectories and recovery of New Zealanders with mental distress. It can reinforce the discrimination they may experience within the health system, encourage non-therapeutic practises such as restraint and seclusion, and enable inequities towards Māori, who are subjected to coercive practises more than other groups.
While we look forward to the Government repealing and replacing the Mental Health Act (as recommended in He Ara Oranga), we also see a real opportunity for these guidelines to change the way the Act is used in practise from 2020. These guidelines can enable a more human rights-based approach that removes discrimination, sees coercion as a temporary and last-resort option, and examines the extent of racism and prejudice in the application of the Act and its potential to significantly harm hauora Māori.
We recommend that the use of compulsory treatment should be avoided wherever possible through promoting supported decision-making (and peer support worker guidance), good consultation practises with whānau, and the consideration of other treatment options like talk therapy and rongoa Māori.