Assembly calls for an end to coercive practices in mental health

PACE has urged Council of Europe member States to “immediately start to transition to the abolition of coercive practices in mental health settings”.

In a resolution and recommendation unanimously adopted today, based on a report by Reina de Bruijn-Wezeman (Netherlands, ALDE), the Assembly said mental health systems across Europe “should be reformed to adopt a human rights-based approach which is [...] respectful of medical ethics and of the human rights of the persons concerned, including of their right to health care on the basis of free and informed consent”.

A recent overall increase in the use of involuntary measures in mental health settings “mainly results from a culture of confinement, which focuses and relies on coercion to ‘control’ and ‘treat’ patients who are considered potentially ‘dangerous’ to themselves or others,” the Assembly said.

Yet evidence from sociological fieldwork research points to “overwhelmingly negative experiences of coercive measures, including pain, trauma and fear”, the parliamentarians pointed out.

They instead called for “effective and accessible support services for persons experiencing crises and emotional distress, including safe and supportive spaces to discuss suicide and self-harm”, as well as development of “non-coercive measures including community-based responses such as peer-led crisis or respite services, and other initiatives such as advance planning”.

The Assembly welcomed plans by the Council of Europe’s expert body on bioethics to engage in a study on “Good practices in mental healthcare – how to promote voluntary measures”.

Noting “continued widespread opposition” to the pursuance of work on an additional protocol to the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine with regard to involuntary placement and involuntary treatment, the Assembly invited the Council of Europe’s ministerial body to redirect efforts from the drafting of such a protocol to the drafting of guidelines on ending coercion in mental health.