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Mental health is one of the most important issues in society. Nowadays, more and more people suffer from mental illnesses, a fact that seems to increase the need for the elimination of this problem. In Scotland, one in four people are likely to develop mental health problems (www.samh.org.uk). The Scottish Act related to mental health is the "Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003" which replaces the "Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984 (www.mentalhealth.org.uk). The form of the new Act aims to provide effective care and treatment in people with mental illnesses (www.scotland.gov.uk). The term 'mental illness' covers mental health problems, personality disorders and learning disabilities (Pilgrim-Rogers, 1999). Society seems to demand changes of the law concerning mental health in order to improve the life of people who are mentally ill. Moreover, sociology claims that mental illness depends on several factors mentioning also the extent of discrimination within society. The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 was passed in April 2003 and is going to be implemented by April 2005 (www.markwalton.net). A lot of people co-operated and participated to develop the Act, including those involved in mental health care and treatment, patients and people who cared for them whether professionally or otherwise (www.scotland.gov.uk). The 2003 Act is quite long containing more than 300 sections covering a wide range of issues. Generally, it includes principles, roles, responsibilities, compulsory powers, rights and safeguards (www.scotland.gov.uk).
Moreover, the Act 2003 differs in the arrangements of mentally ill people within the criminal justice system by making them fairer and safer, the representation of the patient and the safeguards for special medical treatments (www.scotland.gov.uk). Through the changes of the Act 2003, people will stay in hospital for shorter time than before and people who used to be treated in hospital will be actively supported in the community. Patients will be more respected by the society. Furthermore, patients will have access to skilled psychological interventions from several staff groups and not only psychology. Through the new Act people, with mental disorders will have social support including housing, social activities and education. It will also pay attention to alcohol problems, will help to minimize the impact of personality problems, support for recovery and pay attention to the developmental needs of all the patients and particularly young people and people with learning disabilities (www.scotland.gov.uk). Mental health is important not only for people with mental disorders but also for all the society. Health Minister Susan Deacon said that tackling mental health is one of the most important health challenges the society faces today. Improvement of mental health for people suffering from a mild depression to schizophrenia requires a broad approach. This includes better prevention, appropriate treatment and modern legislation. She also added that the new proposals provide clearer, safer and fairer arrangements for mentally ill patients, their families and carers and that these proposals represent the biggest overhaul of mental health laws in Scotland (www.markwalton.net).
In conclusion, the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 is considered as the most important reform of mental health law in Scotland for more than 40 years, as it makes several changes that would improve the life of people with mental health disorders. However, effective care and treatment of people with mental health illnesses depends not only on what the 2003 Act says, but also on policies, practices and actions of a wide range of organizations and people and on how well they co-operate (www.scotland.gov.uk). In other words, it depends on the way professionals discharge their specific functions under the Act, how service providers organize and deliver services to make the Act work properly and how organizations help to remedy the failures that are made in the treatment of people. Effective care and treatment of mentally ill patients also depends on the quality of care and treatment that is provided to them and on how service users and carers are encouraged to take part in their care and treatment (www.scotland.gov.uk). Families and friends, self-help and community groups also provide quite enough support to people with mental health disorders (World Health Organisation, 2004). The Scottish Association for Mental Health also outlines some general issues that the parliament should take into account including more money for mental health, more funding for research into alternatives to drug treatments, more attention on the mental health of children and consideration of new laws for the harassment of mentally ill people. Finally, politicians should stop using discriminatory language or inappropriate medical terms such as 'schizophrenic' or 'manic' (www.samh.org.uk).
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