18 March 2020
Rachel Kent, Trainee Advanced Clinical Practitioner with our Brent Community Mental Health Services wrote the article on coerced marriage in people with mental health disorders, for the RCNi journal, Mental Health Practice.
In the piece Rachel says staff should feel able to question whether marriages place patients or their spouses at risk, as assessing patient capacity, and risks are part of a clinician’s professional responsibility. But she acknowledges that Mental health professionals may feel unable to intervene since there is no law or guidance on what to do when they believe patients may be at risk of a coerced marriage.
Rachel said, “If we are concerned about capacity, and/or concerned about risk, then we should feel able to do something. The purpose of this bulletin is to let staff know that you can do something and that there is a plan to create a pathway for all staff to follow if they believe their patient may have agreed to a marriage they lack capacity to consent to, are at risk, or pose a risk to others within a marriage.
Patients who have been coerced into marriage without their consent, or who lack capacity to consent, can be at risk from domestic violence or pose a risk to their potential spouse.
“Having a mental illness does not mean that an individual is not deserving, or unable to be in a loving supportive relationship which may or may not lead to marriage. Marriage has religious and cultural connotations and norms. As professionals, when we learn of our patients’ intentions to get married, or when we discover that they have been married with little or no notice, it can raise questions or make us feel uncomfortable - even concerned - for the safety of either our patient or the safety of our patient's new spouse. It is hard to challenge a marriage - especially one that has already taken place - for fear that we could be accused of discrimination. However, assessing our patients’ capacity to consent to a marriage is a part of our professional responsibility,” she said.
Rachel previously worked as a mental health nurse, with Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, before joining CNWL where she continues to champion this issue.
You can read the article here.