A proposed law aimed at improving mental health services received cross-party support as it passed its first hurdle in the Senedd.
James Evans brought forward the Mental Health Standards of Care bill on Wednesday, 13 December, after winning a random ballot to introduce legislation in October.
The Conservative MS for Brecon and Radnorshire explained that his bill would lead to a rights-based approach, enshrining the principles of choice and autonomy in Wales.
Expressing regret that the UK Government shelved plans to reform the Mental Health Act 1983, Mr Evans said his bill would take forward the findings of an independent review.
He said the bill is a response to a societal shift: “Gone are the days when mental health conditions were shrouded in stigma and secrecy, with people far too afraid to often seek help
“What we are witnessing is a collective awakening, a realisation that, for far too long, mental health is not only a personal matter, but also a societal one that needs addressing.”
The shadow health minister told the Senedd his bill would ensure there is no age limit for people to request a reassessment of their mental health.
He said the opportunity to request reassessment is currently only available to adults, putting children and young people at a disadvantage.
Mr Evans explained the bill would change the criteria for detention, enshrining principles such as the presumption of capacity and the least restrictive option into Welsh Law.
Lynne Neagle, the deputy minister for mental health, said the Welsh Government would support the motion to provide a chance for more detailed consideration.
Ms Neagle told the chamber that she was deeply disappointed after the UK Government chose not to include a mental health bill in November’s King’s Speech.
She described Mr Evans’ proposals as positive steps that are consistent with the Welsh Government’s policy objectives.
The deputy minister urged a note of caution about taking forward reforms to a system that currently operates on a Wales-and-England basis.
She stressed the need to avoid fragmenting an already complex mental health system.
Ms Neagle said the Welsh Government will be publishing its new long-term vision for mental health in the new year.
Mabon ap Gwynfor backed the proposal to bring an outdated law into the 21st century, praising Mr Evans for picking up Westminster’s slack on such an important issue.
He said: “This could be a significant moment in how we support those with severe and enduring mental health issues.”
Plaid Cymru’s shadow health minister raised concerns about poor mental health outcomes being particularly prevalent among trans people.
He said a report on Welsh schools found that 77% of trans children have self-harmed and 92% have thought about taking their own life.
The Conservatives’ Peter Fox highlighted higher than average rates of depression and suicide in farming communities such as his Monmouth constituency.
He pointed out that accessing support can be more difficult in rural areas as he welcomed the bill’s provisions around remote mental health assessments.
Jayne Bryant joined the children’s commissioner in welcoming the bill’s commitment to ensuring children and young people are afforded the same rights as adults.
She said adolescent girls aged 16 to 19 and people from poorer backgrounds are more likely to experience a mental health crisis.
The Newport West MS said removing the age limit for reassessment requests will bring Wales in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sarah Murphy focused on proposals to ensure people can only be detained if they pose a serious risk of harm and there is a reasonable prospect of therapeutic benefit.
The Labour backbencher, who represents Bridgend, raised the case of a constituent who has been detained outside Wales and does not have a long-term therapeutic plan.
MSs unanimously backed the bill, which will now be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny, prompting Mr Evans to say: “Can I say I'm a bit shaken, actually, because I'm a little bit overwhelmed by the support I've had here today?”