Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Unofficial advice if you are threatened with being sectioned while sleeping rough. By Alex White

There have been reports of a number of people being sectioned to get them off the street. If you find yourself in this situation, knowing what the law is may help you to resist it. As we all know too well, the homeless agencies will break any rule in the book if they can get away with it, but quoting the law to them may make them play things slightly more by the book as well as demonstrating that you are more together than they are making out.
The main sections which concern us are Section 2 and 3 of the 1983 Mental Health Act, but you may find you are initially sectioned under one of the emergency sections, (4 or 136) to get you off the street initially. But I'll start with 2 and 3 anyway, and come back to the others. Section 2 is for assessment and you can be held for up to 28 days. Section 3 is for treatment (although you can also be treated under Section 2) and is up to 6 months, which can then be renewed.
Both Section 2 and Section 3 must be authorised by 3 people to be legal. One must be a section 12 approved doctor (usually a psychiatrist), another can be any other doctor and the third must be an AMHP approved mental health professional (who can be a nurse, social worker etc but must have been officially approved by Social Services i.e. not any bloody outreach worker)
You should ask each of these which one they are and if possible write down their names. Whatever state your head's in - and who wouldn't have a screwed up head after time on the streets) try to snap out of it and pretend to be boringly normal - unless you plan to go down fighting - in which case be my guest!
Ask them for documentation of what they are doing.

Emergency Sections
One doctor and an AMHP can use Section 4 to force you to go to hospital they can then process you for Section 2 or 3. Also the police can bring you in under Section 136. Always ask questions about your assessment - what and why.

Voluntary patients
All the above assumes that you go to psychiatric hospital against your will, but the majority of psychiatric patients are technically voluntary. I say technically because it doesn't mean they can just walk out - if they try to they are told they will be sectioned. I'm not sure whether to advise you to go in voluntarily, or if it makes much difference - they will let you out when they choose to, not when you choose to.

Many people imagine that when they go into psychiatric hospital that they will be talking about their problems to mental health staff. You will get a structured assessment interview to begin with but that is just to fit you into a diagnostic category, but thereafter you will usually only see your psychiatrist for 15 minutes once a week at a  strange ritual called a ward round. The staff you will mostly be dealing with are nurses, who have no interest in interaction with their patients except to give them drugs or order them around - they are basically warders - they spend most of their time chatting to each other. Being a psychopath is not a condition of employment of being a psychiatric nurse but it certainly appeals to people who want unaccountable power over vulnerable people. Treatment (if you're sectioned you have no right to refuse - but argue, and make them document your oppostion!) consists of ECT (Electro-convulsive therapy) or drugs. There's not much psychotherapy and what there is is useless. Drugs are not good for you but don't let them use electroshock on you. Any sane being can work out what electroshock does to your brain; don't let anyone tell you anything different. If you want the in depth details about electroshock, this is one of the best articles to read:
You are allowed to refuse electroshock, but you have to have the capacity to do so. Capacity means how together you are. As you can guess, it's very easy for them to claim you have no capacity and need your brain fried. A very limited way to oppose this is to make something called an Advance Decision.
The Mental Capacity Act (2005) gives legal recognition to advance decisions, which are statements you draw up with witnesses about how you want to be treated when you are what they consider to be sane. Make sure your doctor or any other relevant mental health professionals have a copy. However, unfortunately they are allowed to override it. One very important exception to that is Electro Convulsive Therapy (electroshock) I have told by a solicitor that an advance decision opposing electroshock is legally binding.

Something else worth considering is that when they section you they can effectively disappear you. But there is a way to prevent them doing this: Write a statement authorising a friend to be informed of your whereabouts and give signed copies to your friend, GP and the mental health team (do the same with an advance decision) If you disappear without warning, the GP and the mental health team will probably ignore requests from your friend to tell them your whereabouts. What they then have to do is to go to the County Court and get an injunction (this is free if they are on benefits). This orders them to comply - I've seen one - they order the psychiatrists to comply within 48 hours or face prison - they really freak them out.

The statement should say: "This is to advise you that I am giving my consent and authority to (the name and address of the friend) to act on my behalf with regard to my health and medical and social welfare. This is to remain in force until actively revoked by myself" (signed by the potential patient)

To enforce it you contact the county court to book a case - it costs £280 but that can be remitted if you fill in a form saying you are on benefits. The case I know about sets a legal precedent: it was granted this year (2016) in Willesden County Court case no c00w1435

One argument you could use against them is to say that there are mental health professionals opposed to all this shit and you agree with them. For example Joanna Moncrieff, Jonathan Bindman and Duncan Double (psychiatrists), Professor Richard Benthall, Dorothy Rowe, Lucy Johnstone, Dave Harper (clinical psychologists) all working in the NHS are all opposed to ECT and drugging.
 lt place to do that and it is only likely to bring you to the attention of the thought police. There are such things as crisis houses, but there aren't very many and they're not very accessible to people on the street. Maybe try going to a bothy (a little hut in the mountains) - plenty in Wales, Northern England or Scotland
You have the right to a mental health advocate to defend your rights and represent your views on treatment. Twenty years ago advocates were radical, but my impression now is that they are pretty crap, but demand one anyway. They should at least be able to put you in touch with friends.
If you're a friend of a 'binliner' (someone banged up in a loony bin) go and visit them, because the bastards can get away with less shit.
Some background
There is a division of opinion about how to understand madness and depression. Most doctors adhere to the biomedical model and classify crazy behaviour as 'mental illnesses' like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This kind of classification has recently been exposed as having no scientific basis by people like Richard Bentall, but psychiatrists do not take seriously anybody who challenges their power or social status.
The alternative view, which would make sense to most of us, is that people lose it because their lives get screwed up in a totally fucked up world. Sometimes people need to lose it, let go, let everything go to pieces as a means of finding themselves. I've seen people go completely crazy and come through it with the support of their friends, but the street is a bloody difficult.
Good luck


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