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Karen Martin on the challenges of the Scottish Mental Health Law Review

In January 2020 I took on a role I never thought would happen; I became part of the executive team reviewing Scotland’s mental health legislation.

I say I never thought it would happen not because I didn’t believe I had the skills, experience and knowledge of this area to do such a role, but my involvement was sought because I am a carer of someone who has mental health problems and it was that perspective the executive team wanted.

They also wanted the valuable perspective of a person who had been subject to the law and so I was joined on the team by Graham Morgan.

The inclusion of myself and Graham means that the review can be guided not just by a legal and academic approach, but also from a personal and lived experience perspective.

So, what’s it been like? It’s actually been both very interesting and daunting. Interesting because what we are doing is reviewing a large and complex area of legislation through the lens of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to ensure the legislation is enacted in a way which aligns, as much as possible, with the CRPD.

Daunting because mental health legislation is huge and the people involved range from those directly impacted by it, service users, carers and families, to clinicians, independent advocates, lawyers, mental health officers etc. It can at times feel like herding cats! But that’s what I love; the challenge of gathering views/concerns/issues and then looking at what can be done.

We are in the first phase of the review, gathering evidence and this is where you come in.

We need to hear from as many people as possible who have either been impacted by mental health legislation, and from people who have a role to play in using the legislation.

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