In the following article, we will briefly review the change in UK legislation that introduced the mental health discrimination act 2013 and some of the implications for mental health speech at a collective level.
Mental health discrimination act 2013
Through the mental health discrimination act 2013, some changes are made to protect some people who, in the past, could be affected by their mental health condition in the context of work. This applies, above all, to directors of certain types of public and private entities.
Mental health discrimination act 2013, what is it?
According to the Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health website, the mental health discrimination act 2013 introduces the following changes, in summary, terms
\”The Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013 removes three legal barriers that contribute to a stigmatized view of mental health problems. It also sends a wider message that discrimination of people with mental health problems will not be tolerated.
The three provisions in the Act:
- Repeal section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983, under which a Member of the House of Commons, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly automatically loses their seat if they are sectioned under the Mental Health Act for more than six months
- Amend the Juries Act 1974 to remove the blanket ban on ‘mentally disordered persons undertaking jury service
- Amend the Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008 which states that a person might cease to be a director of a public or private company ‘by reason of their mental health'”.
According to the website mentioned above, in summary, terms the changes are those mentioned above and we will now reflect a little on the implications of these changes which basically send a message to society about how people with mental disorders should be considered and treated.
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Mental health discrimination act 2013, a collective message
Firstly, the beneficiaries of the mental health discrimination act 2013 will be all those people who, belonging to the corporations or companies referred to in the law, suffer from a mental disorder at present or in the future and now will not have to worry about being removed from their posts because of their mental illness.
The power and the potency of this law lie primarily in the message it gives to society about how mental illness should be understood. It has a huge impact on the country’s mental health speech, those ideas that are spread in society and that have the power to impact the lives of those directly affected, in this case, those with a mental disorder.
In the opposite case, if laws continue to exist that go against the rights of people with mental illness, what is promoted is the idea that these people should be removed from the normal functioning of society. This is a dangerous message, as it would indicate that these people are of lesser value or susceptible to abuse.
Mental health discrimination act 2013, mental health and its collective and/or cultural dimension
Something particular is happening with mental health, and in part, this is being recognized at a political level in the UK with the launch of the mental health discrimination act 2013. Mental health is a phenomenon that cannot be understood if we focus only on individuals.
This is because the same way our psychological systems are formed, as our minds mature, is cultural from its base. Each of the operations that our mind is capable of performing becomes meaningful to the extent that we interact, at some level, with the social dimension.
Let’s take emotions, for example. These are, among other things, innate ways that we humans (and even other animal species in basic ways) have to communicate with each other. Sadness, although sometimes it may not seem so, has a social function and is to communicate to those around us that something is happening to us and that perhaps it would be better if they were to help us.
The same goes for mental illnesses, they cannot be understood outside the context where they occur, since to explain something would be incomplete. It is common, in fact, that when intervention is carried out in a mental disorder, the elements at the family, work, couple, etc. level that could be involved are valued.
Mental health professionals know very clearly that a person does not get sick in isolation, as if the world had stopped for him/her. No, in fact, the demands and/or complaints with which patients arrive at mental health clinics are almost always related to some kind of problem at a social level that affects them.
For example, a person with a depressive disorder, before being diagnosed and without understanding very well what is happening to her, may arrive talking first about how she feels like a failure at work, about her discomfort at thinking that her life is stagnant and that her job is not helping her to get better. It’s not just about the person, but about what’s around them and how that interaction works.
Perhaps, when treatment is proposed, the conclusion is reached that it might be beneficial for the person to take a new direction in his career and look for a new job. This could definitely lead to a change in a person’s perspective. Likewise, a change in the work context itself could contribute greatly to the management of the person’s symptoms.
Mental health discrimination act 2013, why the discrimination?
At this point you might ask yourself, why do people with mental illness suffer discrimination? It seems absurd, doesn’t it? Diseases are highly prevalent and, in fact, it is very likely that the social circles of almost every person will have a specific example of someone with a mental disorder.
Anxiety and depression disorders, for example, are highly prevalent. In England alone, for example, 4-10% of people will experience symptoms of depression at some point in their lives. That’s a lot of people! This is not an isolated fact, not at all. Mental illness is very prevalent and that is why public action is needed.
Mental health discrimination occurs when a person is abused or treated unfairly because they have a mental illness. Such discrimination can occur at work, in interpersonal relationships, in health care, among other contexts.
An example of discrimination in mental health
To better understand the impact of the mental health discrimination act 2013, we will present an example of a case of discrimination suffered by a person with a depressive disorder working in a public institution.
We will call this person Andrea, a psychologist who worked in a certain country taking care of people with high vulnerability and who needed social assistance. Andrea’s work consisted of conducting an assessment of different communities, in terms of health, education, and recreational needs, among others.
As part of these assessment processes, Andrea had to travel to different communities, which were sometimes located in the peripheral areas of the city where she worked. On one of those days when she was on the outskirts of the city, she suffered an accident, slipped and fell so that she broke her leg.
For that reason, he received a medical disability and was at home for several months, which began to generate some depressive symptoms. At some point, the administrative area of the company where she works learned that she had started to suffer from a depressive disorder.
A few weeks later, Andrea returned to work, was already recovered, and expected to return to her usual activities, as she had been doing before the accident. When she returned to work, she found that her boss had changed her job and she would be able to do other activities. Someone else was replacing her in her previous duties.
Andrea was asked to devote herself solely to archival activities at the institution. She only had to organize the documentation of the different processes of intervention, and she was not comfortable with this. For that reason, she decided to talk to her boss, so that he would allow her to return to her previous duties.
“You’re not in the same state as before, you know what I mean? How are you going to do your job if you’re already bored all the time? This is what Andrea found when she talked to her boss about the situation. A clear case of mental health discrimination. The reason she was demoted was that she had a depressive disorder.
Does that seem fair to you? Imagine that for some reason you begin to suffer from a mental disorder and, for that reason, in your job they decide to isolate you and treat you in a differential and negative way.
This is related to the social stigma surrounding mental illness, given the misinformation and misbelief people have about what is, and what is not, involved in having a mental disorder.
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The Mental Health Discrimination Act 2013 is an example of how societies should advance their understanding of mental health. There must be no discrimination on that ground, and the law in question has ensured that this is beginning to change and society at large is becoming aware of it.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about mental health discrimination act 2013
- Mental Health Law in England and Wales: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals (Mental Health in Practice Series)
- Peer Support in Mental Health (Foundations of Mental Health Practice)
- Improving Mental Health through Social Support: Building Positive and Empowering Relationships
- Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013 (Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health (JCPMH))
- Rethinking Rights-Based Mental Health Laws
- Almost a Revolution: Mental Health Law and the Limits of Change