Autistic People should not be included in Mental Health Act

CarerWatch have been asked to raise awareness of this

MHA leaflet, November 2011

On World Mental Health Day, and at the start of Scottish Mental Health Week, Autism Rights is calling for revision and amendment of the Mental Health Act to take people with Learning Disabilities and Autistic Spectrum Disorders out of this Act. At the moment, people with Learning Disabilities are specifically included in this Act under the the definition of `mental disorder`. People with autism are also included in this definition.

Both the Millan Committee of 2001, which was set up by the first Scottish Executive to review the then Mental Health Act, and the 2009 McManus Review  of the current Mental Health Act, recommended that people with Learning  Disabilities be taken out of the Mental Health Act. In spite of the agreement  by the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee that this measure was long overdue, nothing has happened. There is currently a Scottish Government consultation on a Review of Mental Health Strategy which makes no  mention of this recommendation.

Autism Rights is now taking a lead in calling for the end to this historical anomaly. Its Convener, Fiona Sinclair, said “The experience of families of adults with autism is that this discriminatory law directly impacts upon the services that they might receive. While local authorities and health services can continue to avoid the provision of appropriate services, because of an absence of standards, they can always blame the person with the disability when they are no longer able to cope with this, knowing that they have the power to incarcerate that person or enforce medication under the Mental Health Act.

We know that other organisations have previously called for this discrimination to end, as we have ourselves. We will be contacting these and other organisations to ask for their support. The current consultation on a Mental Health Strategy offers a golden opportunity, which will not arise again in the near future, to ask the Scottish Government to put in place the necessary amendments to the Mental Health Act.

With the implementation of legislation such as the Adults with Incapacity Act, there is no legal or practical need to continue to discriminate against people with disabilities, whilst those who are much more likely to be any kind of threat to the safety of the general public are specifically excluded from the provisions of the Mental Health Act.” said Mrs. Sinclair, referring to the fact that drug addicts and alcoholics are specifically excluded from the provisions of the Act, whereas research studies have demonstrated it is precisely these groups, regardless of their mental health status, who are most likely to commit serious acts of violence*.


Autism Rights is established to research, lobby and campaign for the human rights of people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) in Scotland, in particular to campaign for the provision of appropriate health treatment, education, social welfare and justice.

The founding members of Autism Rights are all parents and carers of people with an ASD and were long-standing members of the now defunct Cross-Party Group on Autistic Spectrum Disorders of the Scottish Parliament.

We are the only national service user-led group in Scotland campaigning for the rights of people with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder and their families. Full membership of Autism Rights is open to people with an ASD resident in Scotland and parents and non-professional carers of people with an ASD who support our aims and objectives. We do not provide services for people with ASD, so we can speak up without fear of the loss of funding for services.


Fiona Sinclair, Convener, Autism Rights

– Substance abuse, not mental illness, causes violent crime
Study finds people with drink or drug addictions have similar rates of violent
crimes whether or not they have a mental illness
Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor, Monday 6 September 2010

A Frontline Scotland BBC TV programme was made about the issue of incarceration of autistic adults within mental hospitals. Fife Health Board took out an interdict to prevent its screening. One of the autistic adults in this programme has been held for more than 11 years in a mental institution in Fife. The programme has never been screened.

A number of years ago, several parents met with Frank McAveety, the then Depute Minister for Health, to give evidence of the abuse of their adult children within the mental health system. Nothing has been done since that time to investigate the extent of this problem, or to remedy the absence of autism specific training within the mental health system, which frequently leads to misdiagnosis and wholly inappropriate treatment, with a complete absence of therapeutic input.

 – 10 October –  transcript of the “You and Yours” programme on Autism Misdiagnosis, broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on 28 October 2004.
– parents have no power to stop inappropriate or even illegal drugging of their adult children, which sometimes has tragic consequences, as in the case of Harry Horne-Roberts  –
`Look what they did to my Janis`, By Olga Craig 12/11/2006
 This article about the death of a young blind woman in a psychiatric
institution gives an idea of the kind of effect that these extremely powerful drugs have on someone who has a normal immune system and metabolism. A number of research studies have now demonstrated that people with autism have serious problems with their immune systems and metabolism, which make it much more difficult to metabolise psychiatric drugs.

A book has been written by the mother of this young woman, giving an account
of her `treatment` – Take My Hand by Audrey Revell is published by Trafford.  –  
  Last Updated: Friday, 4 January 2008, 03:02 GMT  
     Learning disability drug warning
  Doctors are being warned not to routinely give people with learning disabilities anti-psychotic drugs to curb aggressive behaviour. An Imperial College London study of 86 patients found the drugs were no more
effective than being given none at all.
 Researchers said it was more important to address the underlying causes.
 In the UK, 200,000 people with learning disabilities are given anti-psychotic
drugs – even though there is a risk of side-effects, the Lancet reported.  
 These can include risk of weight gain, impotence and strain to the cardiovascular system.
 The problem with patients with learning disabilities is that we haven’t had the evidence on whether anti-psychotic drugs worked Professor Peter Tyrer, lead researcher

   The team studied patients in 10 inpatient and community settings in
England, Wales and Australia. One group was given haloperidol, a first-generation antipsychotic drug, a second group got risperidone, a second-generation version, while a third received a dummy pill.
 Clinical assessments of aggression, aberrant behaviour, quality of life,
adverse drug effects and feelings towards their carer were recorded at four,
12 and 26 weeks.
 The researchers found that aggression had decreased substantially with all
three treatments by week four, but patients receiving the dummy pill had the
greatest change.
 Improvements were seen with the other measures, but these were similar for
all three groups.
 Lead researcher Professor Peter Tyrer said: “The problem with patients with
learning disabilities is that we haven’t had the evidence on whether anti-psychotic drugs work.
 “Therefore, these patients were assumed to be the same as other mental health
 “But what our research shows is that drugs are no better than not giving any
drugs. It seems what is important is the care a person receives.
 “When people with learning disabilities are aggressive it is important they
are given support and people communicate with them.”
 But he added that there would still be exceptional circumstances where such
drugs were necessary.
 Dr Jim Kennedy, prescribing spokesman at the Royal College of GPs, agreed.
 But he added: “All too often the drugs are used as a chemical restraint. This
can be poor practice.”
 And David Congdon, from the Mencap charity, said: “Anti-psychotic drugs
should be seen as a last resort.
 “Challenging behaviour is caused by many different factors – an undiagnosed
health condition causing extreme pain, frustration at not being able to
communicate properly, or boredom due to a lack of meaningful activity.
 “All of this can be dealt with without the use of anti-psychotic drugs.”
One parent summed up our feelings about `the system` – “It just seems to me
that, over the years, we have spent more and more money employing more and more people to stop our children getting the things they need.”


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