Minister seeks approval to involve families in treatment of mentally ill relatives

Mary Butler hopes to draft legislation to give families and advocates a greater role in the mental health treatment of a person with consent
Minister seeks approval to involve families in treatment of mentally ill relatives

Minister for Mental Health Mary Butler is to propose new legislation next month to allow family members to be involved in the care of a relative receiving psychiatric treatment.

According to The Irish Times, Ms Butler hopes to bring to Government draft legislation to give families and advocates a greater role in the mental health treatment of a person but only with their consent.

Andrew McGinley, husband of Deirdre Morley who was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the murder of her three children, criticised the Mental Health Act 2001 following the verdict.

He said the law “does not go far enough in ensuring family support structures for the patient are fully engaged and included by the mental health professionals treating our loved ones”.

The jury heard that Ms Morley did not reveal the extent of her mental illness to those closest to her and that she managed her own medication and treatment.

Mr McGinley said that had there been “a more inclusive and collaborative approach” between medical professionals and the family in her care, his children “would be alive today”.

Ms Morley suffocated her children Conor (9), Darragh (7) and Carla (3) at their Co Dublin family home on January 24th, 2020, before trying unsuccessfully to take her own life.

Consent

Declining to comment specifically on the case, Ms Butler said it was important that family members were involved “to the greatest extent possible in a person’s mental health treatment” but that the consent of the patient was required to involve a family member or advocate.

The new legislation is expected to cover a recommendation of a 2015 expert group set up to review the 2001 Act that there should be “proactive encouragement for the patient at all times to involve a family member, carer or advocate in their care or treatment plan with their consent”.

She expects to bring to Government draft legislation before the summer recess, updating the Mental Health Act in full, and to introduce the Bill in the Oireachtas this autumn.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can freephone the Samaritans 24 hours a day for confidential support at 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

Alternatively, the contact information for a range of mental health supports is available at mentalhealthireland.ie/get-support

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