Ethics and Mental Health (BETH5205)


Mental health and mental illness are unique in the field of health care and bioethics. The very nature of psychiatric disorder and its relationship with prevailing social and cultural factors, in addition to the unique status of the mental health patient, necessitate a specific discourse in biomedical ethics in the area of mental health. This course will provide participants with a broad perspective of issues in bioethics applied to mental health and mental illness. Students will examine the history of the psychiatric profession and consider the adequacy of current safeguards against the abuses of power seen in the history of the profession. Other areas considered in the course include the current ethical dilemmas in mental health care, the implications of technological advances in the neurosciences, the philosophical basis of the concept of mental disorder, the relationship between power and the psychiatric profession and the complex relationship between morality, mental health and the law. The course has been designed to focus on topical areas of contemporary relevance and each week contains a podcast with a person of relevance to the topic. The course aspires to inform future decision makers in health, public policy, clinical settings and academia in the unique aspects of biomedical ethics in the field of mental health.

Our courses that offer this unit of study

Further unit of study information


Distance Education (online)


Major Assignment (3000 word limit) 50%; 2x5 short-answer written assessments (25% each)


Robertson M and Walter G Ethics and Mental Health: The Patient, Profession and Community (2013) Boca Raton CRC Press; Students are provided with a book of readings (in digital format). Most supplementary readings can be accessed through the library or online.

Faculty/department permission required?


Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.