Review of "The Evolution of Mental Health Law"

By Lynda E Frost & Richard J Bonnie (Editors)
American Psychological Association, 2001
Review by Simon Gelsthorpe on Oct 31st 2002
The Evolution of Mental Health Law

Currently in the UK we are in the middle of a long process of attempting to rewrite our mental health legislation. Needless to say it is creating a great deal of debate and discussion around many of the controversial aspects. This is a slow process of change - definitely an evolution of mental health law. As a result of this I was keen to get hold of "The Evolution of Mental Health Law", expecting it to be a chronicle of how legislation has developed throughout the world.

Whoops! I had forgotten rule number one of book reviewing "Never judge a book by its title". The Evolution of Mental Health Law is not about the development of legislation but about the development of a field of study. My initial reaction then was disappointment. I've got a book that I was not really wanting. But hold on! Inside are a collection of chapters by many of the movers and shakers in the study of mental health law. Surely there would be bits to interest me. My disappointment lessened as I scanned through the contents, giving me a feel for the breadth of the book's scope - the USA scene, ethics, responsibility and punishment, critiques of past present and future developments, and therapeutic jurisprudence. In short, a broad selection of topics giving the individual reader a wide choice to select from, but probably too wide for it all to appeal to one person. But yes, many of these were of interest.

With any book made up of edited chapters there will be some chapters that grab you and some that pass you by. As I read on this was just such a book for me. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on therapeutic jurisprudence and psychoanalytic contributions to mental health law. These chapters grabbed my attention and are well written, informative and will send me off to chase up other articles to further my knowledge and thinking.  In addition many of the chapters do not dwell merely on the history of their subject, but also flag up possible future developments. It's a book that will be invaluable in a library but probably underused in a personal collection.


© 2002 Simon Gelsthorpe


Simon Gelsthorpe, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Bradford U.K.


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