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Professionals in mental health should change their 'heart and mind'

The heart and mind of professionals working in mental health need to change if changes proposed in the upcoming Mental Health Act are to be given a sporting chance, John Cachia, the Commissioner for Mental Health and the Elderly, said this morning.

Speaking during a conference on introducing an EU Health Policy and how society can advocate for better health at EU level, Dr Cachia said that the act, which has yet to be debated in Parliament, proposed that practitioners had to change in the way they related to patients to ensure a more patient-focused approach.

Changes proposed included a significant reduction in the length of compulsory stays at mental health institutions and that professionals would have to give reasons to justify their decisions to place patients under restrictive care.

The act, Dr Cachia said, also introduced the concept of  transient mental incapacity and offered better protection for minors with mental health issue.

Dr Cachia called on NGOs in the sector to help especially in the elimination of social stigma and exclusion. He noted that there was a slight issue with transposing the act, making sure it was in conformity with the Criminal Code, which referred to insanity in a very antiquated matter.

“It would a be a very big pity if this stupid legalistic argument becomes a hurdle in passing the act, it would make a mockery  of all the work done in drafting it,” he said

On challenges with regards to aging, Dr Cachia said that one of the main challenges was the sheer number of medications prescribed to the elderly. In some cases, he said, the elderly suffered health complications directly because of the medications they were given.

Prescriptions given to the elderly, he said, needed to be audited.

Another challenge was that many elderly people were at risk of under nourishment when they were bed ridden.

Two Meusac representatives spoke on the consultation process managed by Meusac and said that consultation was sometimes held at too late a stage, when a position would have already been adopted.

There were government officials who were not interested in consulting or never followed up on a consultation session. NGOs also had to be better prepared for consultation sessions to prevent them from becoming Q and A sessions. Civil society had to become more proactive and not always expect the government to take the first step.

Anne Hoel from the European Public Health Alliance explained the workings of the various bodies of the EU and of lobbying and health advocacy at European level.

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