18 Jul 2013

More mental health patients under compulsory treatment

10:45 am on 18 July 2013

Mental health and human rights advocates are worried by a rise in the compulsory treatment of people with mental disorders.

The number of compulsory treatment orders under the Mental Health Act has gone up by 5.6% in three years. Under the Act, people can be ordered by the court to take medication, either in hospital or the community.

The Mental Health Foundation says the use of the orders to inject people in their homes with long-acting anti-psychotic drugs is a disturbing trend.

Chief executive Judi Clements says the way the orders are applied also varies between district health boards, for no apparent reason.

Lawyer Huhana Hickey, who acts for people with disabilities, says mental health services are flouting the human rights of people with mental disorders by forcing them to submit to treatment.

Ms Hickey says the growing use of long-acting drug injections to treat people in the community is taking away their right to choice. She says people who object are being put on compulsory treatment orders under the Mental Health Act and that is a breach of several United Nations conventions.

But the Ministry of Health says the increase in compulsory treatment orders reflects the growing number of people using mental-health services and turning up acutely unwell.

The ministry's deputy director of mental health, Arran Culver, says the use of long-acting anti-psychotic injections is a safe and useful way of treating people in the community.

"What we are seeing is more people being managed in the community, where that's safely able to be done, who have more serious levels of illness and that often requires the use of a community compulsory treatment order."