Letter: Mind medicine

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I read, with a depressing absence of surprise, about Jack Straw's knee-jerk reaction to the Michael Stone case ("Doctors 'must improve help' ", 27 October). It seems that our senior ministers think like tabloid journalists and speak in tabloid headlines.

Psychiatrists can only forcibly detain people under the prescriptions of the Mental Health Act. A spokeswoman is quoted in your article as explaining that Michael Stone's disorder is not one covered by this Act. Therefore he could not have been legally compelled to have treatment.

In addition, the mental health system is underfunded, understaffed, and under strain. If we want the system to be able to deal with more than it is currently able to, we must ensure that it has sufficient resources.

And so it seems there are two problems - legislation and funding - both of which are under the control of Mr Straw and not the psychiatrists.

Psychiatry is not a glamorous field of medicine and the profession is more than 1,000 members short because of this and the emotional stresses involved. They deserve our praise, not our derision, especially from senior politicians who should know better.

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