Penumbra Chief Executive Comments on “worrying” findings of Mental Welfare Commission Report

Leading mental health charity Penumbra has reacted to the “worrying” findings of a report published by the Mental Health Commission for Scotland today (Wednesday 23 October) on the increase in the use of compulsory treatment.

The Mental Welfare Commission’s report has revealed that 6,038 new episodes of compulsory treatment using the Mental Health Act in Scotland last year – the highest figure since the Act came into force in 2003. The new data also shows rising figures for young people aged under 25 being given compulsory treatment. The female age group with the highest rate of emergency detention certificates per 100,000 population was young women aged 18 to 24, totalling 185 certificates in the year. This compares with 105 for the same age group in 2009/10. Young men age 16 to 17 have seen the greatest increase in rates of emergency detention per 100,000 population in the past year, and both young men and women aged 16 to 17 have shown the greatest increase in the rate of emergency detention across the 10 year period observed. There has also been a rise in the number of short term detention certificates used in relation to young people. In women under the age of 25, there has been a 122.5% increase in the use of short term detention since 2009/10, rising from 142 to in 2009/10 to 316 in 2018/19.

Nigel Henderson, Chief Executive of mental health charity, Penumbra, said:

“Whilst compulsory treatment may not always be avoidable, it should not be inevitable. However, these figures show a worrying rise in the use of compulsory treatment. For young people in particular, the figures are a stark reminder that there is a gap in mental health support services for this age group. People need the right support at the right time.

“The report also highlights concerning issues around compliance. It should not be the case that large numbers of compulsory treatment orders are being applied without the consent of a specialist social worker or Mental Health Officer. However, in one local authority area only 33% compliance was met.

“It will be important for the forthcoming review of the Mental Health Act to consider these findings carefully, but I would also urge councils and health boards to look at how they’re using compulsory treatment.”