Senate passes Mental Health Bill 2022

Senate passes Mental Health Bill 2022

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Senators signaled the government’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy to the abuse and mistreatment of persons with mental illness as the Mental Health Bill 2022 was passed yesterday.

The Mental Health Bill (2022) repeals and replaces the Mental Health Act of 1969. The legislation provides for the promotion, protection, and enforcement of the rights of persons diagnosed or exhibiting symptoms of mental illness as well as the establishment of a mental health services board and a mental health review tribunal.

During his contribution, Economic Affairs Minister and Senator Michael Halkitis said: “Mental health stigma is real and we must do all in our power to address it. The unfair stigma and labeling of persons impacted by mental illness have been a thorn in the side of professionals and administrators as they seek equality in healthcare. This bill seeks to strip away the derogatory labels that persons with mental illness can be subjected to. It is our national responsibility to each other with care and dignity in our interactions.”

Halkitis noted that anyone who wilfully mistreats a person under his or her care who has a mental illness will face stiff penalties under the legislation.

“We are adopting a zero-tolerance policy towards the abuse or mistreatment of persons with mental  or mistreatment of persons with mental illness.”

Halkitis added: “The tendency has been to make light of the situation and ridicule but I think this legislation provides us an opportunity to promote greater education. The objectives are lofty and resources will be required. We have to put our money where our mouth is.”

Free National Movement Senator Michaela Barnett Ellis during her contribution to the debate stated the country must actively change the way it engages people with mental illness.

“This present legation is a step in the right direction,” Barnett-Ellis said.

She noted that the legation provides a clear statutory framework for the treatment of persons with mental illness. 

She added that the powers and provisions of the legislation must be supported by increased resources, noting that capital and Human Resource investments are needed.