Mental health law

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Mental health law is the area of the law that applies to persons with a diagnosis or possible diagnosis of mental illness, and to those involved in managing or treating such people.

Mental health law in general[edit]

Mental health legislation is largely used in the management of psychiatric disorders, such as dementia or psychosis, and developmental disabilities, where a person does not possess the ability to act in a legally competent manner and requires treatment and/or another person to act in his or her best interests. The laws generally cover the requirements and procedures for involuntary commitment and compulsory treatment in a psychiatric hospital or other facility.

In some jurisdictions, court orders are required for compulsory treatment; in others, psychiatrists may treat compulsorily by following set procedures, usually with means of appeal or regular scrutiny to ensure compliance with the law.

Mental health law has received little attention in scholarly legal forums. The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2011 announced the formation of a student-edited law journal entitled "Mental Health Law & Policy Journal."

In common law jurisdictions[edit]

Mental health law includes areas of both civil and criminal common and statutory law.

Common law is based on long-standing English legal principles, as interpreted through case law. Mental health-related legal concepts include mens rea, insanity defences; legal definitions of "sane," "insane," and "incompetent;" informed consent; and automatism, amongst many others.

Statutory law usually takes the form of a mental health statute. An example is the Mental Health Act 1983 in England and Wales. These acts codify aspects of the treatment of mental illness and provides rules and procedures to be followed and penalties for breaches.

Around the world[edit]

Not all countries have mental health acts. The World Health Report (2001) lists the following percentages, by region, for countries with and without mental health legislation.[1]

Regions With legislation No legislation
Africa 59% 41%
The Americas 73% 27%
Eastern Mediterranean 59% 41%
Europe 96% 4%
South-East Asia 67% 33%
Western Pacific 72% 28%

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Presence of mental health policies and legislation, The World Health Report 2001, chap. 4, fig. 4.1 (accessed June 8, 2005).

Further reading[edit]

  • Atkinson, J. (2006), Private and Public Protection: Civil Mental Health Legislation, Edinburgh, Dunedin Academic Press
  • Whelan, D. (2009), Mental Health Law and Practice: Civil and Criminal Aspects, Dublin, Round Hall