Constructs of mental health and mental illness are highly contextual to culture, history and societal notions of normative experience and conduct. Mental illness can place an individual in a position of particular disadvantage and unique vulnerability through diminished (and deprived) autonomy. In light of this, ethical deliberation in the field of mental health care differs from other lines of inquiry in biomedical ethics. This unit of study begins with an examination of the unique status of the 'psychiatric patient' and the problems in applying normative ethical approaches to moral deliberation in mental health care. We then explore particular topics in mental health ethics including the legacies of the National Socialist persecution of the sick and disabled; and unique challenges in the care of groups in the community including Aboriginal Australians, refugees and asylum seekers, people in LGBTIQ communities, and adults and children living with learning and intellectual disabilities. We also explore contemporary controversies in mental health care including coercion and involuntary treatment, the mental health implications of the euthanasia debate, gendered power, medicalisation of children's behaviour, the problem of 'evil', and mental health professionals speaking out in the media on topics of public interest. During the semester, the course coordinators provide participants with regular feedback and guidance in their engagement with the topic. Each week features a podcast lecture and/or interview with an expert in the area under consideration and recommended readings, as well as other media where relevant.
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 list of readings (in digital format). Most supplementary readings can be accessed through the library or online.
Students can meet with unit coordinator by appointment in person or via teleconference
Basic understanding of ethical reasoning