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Handbook of Forensic Mental Health

Keith Soothill, Paul Rogers, and Mairead Dolan, eds. Handbook of Forensic Mental Health. Portland: Willan Publishing. 2008. xxvii + 627 pp., ISBN 1-84392-261-2 (pbk)

Forensic mental health, at least as a formal term of practice and inquiry, is less than 40 years old. NearlForensicMentalHealth y 20 years ago, a schizophrenic patient recently released from hospital murdered a young British boy, giving a significant push to the rapid advance of forensic mental health work in the United Kingdom. In this compendium of nearly two dozen articles, forensic specialists Keith Soothill of Lancaster University and Paul Rodgers and Mairead Dolan of the University of Manchester describe the development of forensic mental health and the three mental health systems currently operating in the UK, assess forensic mental health process and systems for juveniles and adults, examine some core issues in forensic mental health, and identify key skills required of those who practice forensic mental health care.

This hefty volume is divided into four parts: In the first, Rogers and Soothill begin the volume describing the nature and varieties of forensic mental health, including psychiatry, psychology, nursing, social work and even occupational therapists. Other articles cover the origins and early development of forensic mental health, including its development in the UK. The second portion of this volume aims at understanding forensic mental health processes and systems. Articles examine forensic mental health processes and systems for juveniles, young people, and adults, as well as with release procedures, non-custodial sentences, and prison mental health care services. The third part is concerned with the development of a base of knowledge for forensic mental health. Key issues delved into include diagnosis and medical models, risk management, laws on mentally disordered persons, assessing and treating offenders with intellectual and developmental disabilities, aggression and violence, personality disorders, criminal behavior among persons with severe mental illness, and mentally ill persons who commit sexual offenses. In the final section of the volume, the authors examine skills such as expert witnessing, treatment provision, and inpatient care and management that are common among forensic health care providers.

In brief, this volume identifies the interdisciplinary nature of much forensic mental health work. Soothill, in particular, sees forensic mental health as a discipline at risk. He blanches at the four systems existent in the UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales). Imagine his concern about the 50 systems present in the United States (more if you count federal and territorial systems)!  While attention is given the incarceration of mentally ill offenders, it is also noted that a larger number of offenders are “treated” with community corrections systems, usually with even less empirical attention. Skills required of forensic mental health practitioners differ from those needed for the practice of mental health intervention, or even pretrial or presentence work.

Posted Fri, Jan 28 2011 8:42 AM by Tracey Vessels


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