Restrictions of freedom
The 1997 Mental Health Law (with amendments in 2003 and 2007) replaces the law on the “mentally insane” which had been in existence for over half a century. The term “certified mental patient” has been abolished.
Conditions for involuntary internment
A seriously disturbed person who is disturbing public order can be detained in a secure centre for involuntary (compulsory) admission and treatment with a court order.
There are also open psychiatric centres for voluntary admission and treatment. The open centres offer in-patient treatment to non-violent patients on an informal voluntary basis.
A person representative (next of kin), the police or a social worker can make an application to have someone compulsorily admitted to hospital.
Procedure for involuntary internment
The person who is disturbing public order can be apprehended by the police and transferred to a secure establishment for 24 hours’ observation and treatment. Before a person can be involuntarily committed, they had a right to be heard and be accompanied by their own psychiatrist and lawyer at the court process.
A more liberal amendment of the law allows for up to 72 hours’ detention for treatment without consent in an open centre. This necessitates a written recommendation from two doctors (at least one of whom must be a psychiatrist) and the Mental Health Commission must be informed immediately. If after the 72 hour period, the person does not consent to the continuation of treatment, the procedure for compulsory treatment and admission to a secure centre is started.
Duration of involuntary commitment
The initial court order is for 28 days for evaluation and treatment followed by periodic reevaluations every two months for up to a year. A Mental Health Commission is informed of all involuntary admissions and gives permission for the continuation or not of the measure. Voluntary hospitalization can be terminated on the patient’s request at any time.
We do not have any information about patient advisors. However, mail boxes have been placed in each ward of the Psychiatric Hospital (which is the only secure centre for involuntary admission and treatment in Cyprus). Patients and their relatives can put their complaints and suggestions in these boxes which are opened by the secretary of the Mental Health Commission every week.
Law 119 (I) of 2000 on the Prevention of Violence in the Family and Protection of Victims covers violent acts carried out by one member of a family against another. Violence is defined as being any unlawful act, omission or behaviour which results in the direct infliction of physical, sexual or mental injury to any member of the family by another member of the family and includes violence for the purpose of sexual intercourse without the consent of the victim as well as for the purpose of restriction his/her liberty. Members of the family include husbands and wives, parents, children and the grandchildren and any minor residing with the any of the aforementioned people.
In addition to the punishment imposed in the context of this law, the law also results in more severe sentences for cases of violence or abuse already covered by the Criminal Code. For example, in the case of grievous bodily harm inflicted by a family member the term of imprisonment would be increased from 7 to 10 years or in the case of common assault from 1 to 2 years.
No specific reference is made to the elderly or to vulnerable or incapable adults. Consequently, an incapable adult residing with other people who is not a parent would presumably not be covered by this law. S/he would, however, be covered by the general provisions of the Criminal Code relating to violence and abuse.
After 65 to 70 years of age, a person must have a medical and neuropsychiatric exam to assess their fitness to drive. Doctors are not obliged to report diagnoses of dementia to the licensing authorities. However, medical ethics allows for the circumvention of confidentiality in cases of public danger.
Messis, C. (1997), The 1997 mental health law (amendments of 2003 and 2007) and the rights of mental patients in Cyprus, Cyprus Mental Health Commission. Accessed online on 24 October 2011 at: http://mentalhealthcommission.org.cy/en/law/
Last Updated: Wednesday 14 March 2012