Rethink Mental Illness: New Bill to tackle mental health discrimination is historic step forward, says charity

A private members Bill announced today, aimed at tackling mental health discrimination, represents an historic step forward for the rights of people with a mental illness, according to the CEO of a leading mental health charity.

The Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill, announced by Gavin Barwell MP in Parliament this afternoon, will scrap outdated rules which prevent some people with mental health problems from being a company director, an MP, a school governor or from sitting on a jury.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said:

“We are absolutely delighted that action is finally being taken to scrap these outdated, deeply unfair rules. This Bill sends a clear message that people with mental health problems can and should be able to fully contribute to society on an equal footing to everyone else.”

“It’s absurd that capable, intelligent people are being excluded from key aspects of citizenship, based purely on the fact they have an illness, irrespective of how well they may be at the time.

“Many people who have mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, manage their condition and hold down very successful jobs, it’s a disgrace that they cannot sit on a jury, or become a school governor. People with physical illness are not automatically banned in this way. These archaic rules have no place in a modern, enlightened society.”

Gavin Barwell, Member of Parliament for Croydon Central, commented:

“At the moment there are certain aspects of law that encourage discrimination against people with mental health problems. It can’t be right that current legislation can prevent someone from contemplating becoming an MP, serving on a jury or being the director of a company. This outdated way of thinking is entirely wrong and needs to be addressed as a matter of principle.

“The idea that people with mental health problems can never recover and cannot be trusted to participate in social, political or economic life is from a bygone era and must be challenged at the highest level.

“The main purpose of my Bill is to send a very clear message that having a mental health problem is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s like any other kind of health problem, and that you shouldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of law.

“This is the last form of legalised discrimination. Barriers to equality such as this need to be eradicated once and for all which is why I’m proud to play my part by using my Private Members’ Bill to steer this to the Government statute book.”


For more information, please contact Rachel Whitehead, News and Media Manager for Rethink Mental Illness on 0207 840 3138 or email

Notes to editors

The Bill

The Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill was first introduced in April 2011, by Lord Stevenson. At the Bill’s second reading in the Lords on Friday 25 November 2011 it received the support of the government but unfortunately ran out of Parliamentary time

Key Provisions of the Bill:

· Section 141 of the Mental Health Act 1983, under which a Member of the House of Commons, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly automatically loses their seat if they are detained under the Act for more than six months, would be repealed.

· The Juries Act 1974 would be amended to overturn the blanket ban on jury service for people who have had, or who have, a mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983 and who regularly attend for treatment. It would still disqualify people who are in hospital on account of their mental disorder or who are under supervision under the Mental Health Act.

· The Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008 would be amended so that a person no longer ceases to be a director of a public or private company purely ‘by reason of their mental health’.

· School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2007 would be amended so that those detained under the Mental Health Act would no longer be prevented from holding or continuing to hold office as school governors.

Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness is a charity that believes a better life is possible for millions of people affected by mental illness.

For 40 years we have brought people together to support each other. We run services and support groups that change people’s lives and challenge attitudes about mental illness.

We directly support almost 60,000 people every year across England to get through crises, to live independently and to realise they are not alone.

We give information and advice to 500,000 more and we change policy for millions.

For more information go to

Rachel Whitehead
News and Media Manager, Rethink Mental Illness
0207 840 3138
Tweet me! @Rachel_Rethink