Research Articles

Risk Management of those with Poor Mental Health (2017)

Risk Management of those with Poor Mental Health (2017).

There are good and ‘royal’ inroads being achieved to reverse the stigmatization of the acceptable face of mental illness, that is the middle-class depressive. The article asks for the same courtesy to be extended to those in poverty who are situated in the perceived dangerous and risky place of social housing. They only become visible when they are in a mental health crisis due to lack of support, engendering communal fear. The discourse will utilize Beck’s definition of risk in relation to the processes and systems in which hazards are managed and how risk emerges through modernisation itself (Beck, 1992). Foucault in his 1989 treatise on madness and civilisation explores what he calls ‘decarceration’ (Foucault, 1989). In England and Wales, this means the de-instutionalisation of many people who were once confined in mental hospitals, due to their lack of value to society (Hamlin & Oakes, 2008). Legislation attempts to give structure to how these people would be able to live their lives within a community (for example Care in the Community Act; 1990). Albeit Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) legislation has worked against this structure, providing a way to criminalise behaviour once seen as a nuisance (Squires, 2008), it can also be seen as ‘lawful discrimination’ (Pilgrim, 2017; p. 201). However, the risk that the public perceive has been fed by modern media, so that mental illness and dangerousness are strongly associated (Pilgrim, 2017). This is not helped by Thomas Szaz’s work on anti-psychiatry and whether mental illness really exists objectively or if it is a myth that causes more harm (Szasz, 1974; 2010). This is a risk for the person as it robs them of possible support if poor mental health is not seen in the same way as a physical illness. The only other route is through criminalisation. This has become apparent in England and Wales, as has been noted by Lord Bradley in his report and follow up of mental illness and prisons (Bradley, 2009; Durcan, Saunders, Gadsby, & Hazard, 2014). The article concludes that the risk the public perceive from those experiencing poor mental health in their community provides tensions for authorities. This is a ‘perceived’ risk, unlike the ‘real’ risk to the individual of criminalisation instead of support for the health needs. Using data from the authors own research (Savory, 2016), it will conclude that society needs to address the issue of how to support people and not criminalise them when their behaviour does not conform but is the result of poor mental health.

Savory Scripts and Scribes

Writing to entertain and inform

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©Allison Savory 2019
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