Are individual’s Mental Health issues treated fairly by the Criminal Justice System?

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Are individual’s with Mental Health issues treated fairly by the Criminal Justice System? 1500 words. In this essay I will examine how individuals with mental health issues are treated by the Criminal Justice System and whether in modern day society it would be deemed fairly. The Mental Health Act of 1983 defined mental health issues as “mental illness, arrested or incomplete development of mind, psychopathic disorder and any other disorder or disability of mind”[1] A more modern definition is a wide variety of mental conditions that affect a persons, mood, mind-set and behaviour.

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An example of a mental health condition is schizophrenia described as a “long term mental disorder leading to a breakdown between thought, emotion and behaviour causing faulty perceptions and inappropriate actions and feelings”.[2] Historically there has always been a stigma attached to mental “issues”. Society as a whole express common stereotypes about people with mental illness and how it changes them. They believe they are violent and pose a risk to others. On the contrary these people are more likely to be attacked or self-harm, than to harm another. A lack of employment and long term relationships, poor quality of life and social isolation have all been linked to mental health. By being victim to discrimination and negative stereotypes sufferers find themselves trapped in a cycle of illness.[3] In 1845 the Lunacy Act was passed, this put pressure on counties to provide asylum for people suffering from mental health issues where they could be treated as patients and not prisoners. By 1990 nearly seventy asylums had been opened nationwide.[4] The mental health act of 1983 updated in 2007 is the law in the United Kingdom that allows a person with a mental “disorder” to receive medical treatment and be admitted to medical facilities / hospitals without their consent. This will be done when there is a concern for their wellbeing or the safety of the people around them. There are different sections of the act under which patients can be admitted, treated or detained. When someone is “sectioned” they will be admitted to hospital with or without their consent. There are three types of professionals trained to deal with patients under the mental health act. Firstly mental health professions such as social workers or therapists whose role is to decide who needs to be admitted to hospitals. Secondly clinicians who will have overall responsibility for someone who has been sectioned. Finally doctors who are highly trained in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health illnesses. By having a structured systems of roles, systems and procedures for the recognition and treatment of mental health issues it ensures patients receive only the best care tailored for their individual needs. The Criminal Justice System is the process that punishes criminals and compensates the victims of crime.

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