1 Dec, 08 | by Deborah Kirklin
Vincent Van Gogh. Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889. London, Courtauld Institute Gallery.
This month the Mental Health Act (MHA) 2007 came into force in England and Wales. This Act, which amends the MHA 1983, is just the latest in a series of Acts of Parliament that form part of an on-going search for the fine balance between personal liberty and public safety.
The language used in these various Acts, both in their naming and in the way in which the illnesses and disorders suffered by those falling within their remit are described and defined, is interesting. The Lunacy Act 1890 talks of “lunatics, idiots and persons of unsound mind”. The Mental Deficiency Act 1913 introduced safeguards to monitor what went on in what were then termed asylums. In 1959, with the introduction of the first incarnation of the Mental Health Act, we see perhaps the first, modest, attempt to move away from the use of language that appears to blame and diminish those affected by the Act. more…