A study exploring how social work AMHPs experience assessment under mental health law : implications for human rights-oriented social work practice

Abbott, Simon (2021) A study exploring how social work AMHPs experience assessment under mental health law : implications for human rights-oriented social work practice. British Journal of Social Work, ISSN (print) 0045-3102 (Epub Ahead of Print)

Abstract

There is little empirical research focusing on how social workers experience the law in their everyday professional practice, and still less on how mental health social workers experience assessment for compulsory admission under mental health law. The article is informed by a hermeneutic phenomenological approach, drawing on in-depth interviews and practitioner diaries with social work Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs), providing exploration of how social work AMHPs experience compulsory assessment under mental health law in practice. This is revealed as a socio-relational process, involving a focus on the person in their environment in relation to others, such as family and professionals. Ethical challenges realising human rights social work practice are illuminated. This draws attention to how space for such practice can be eroded by systems conditions. The importance of amplifying the voice of the person assessed is highlighted in the context that their voice is severely diminished during the process of assessment. The article provides insights on the complexity involved in compulsory mental health practice, drawing attention to trust as an important concept. Finally, the article argues that realising human rights-oriented AMHP practice requires social work to challenge systems conditions that erode the ability to do so.

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