Journal Article

An Examination of the Use of Coercion by Assertive Outreach and Community Mental Health Teams in Northern Ireland

Gavin Davidson and Jim Campbell

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 37, issue 3, pages 537-555
Published in print April 2007 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online March 2007 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcm017
An Examination of the Use of Coercion by Assertive Outreach and Community Mental Health Teams in Northern Ireland

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In mental health services over recent decades, the positive move away from hospital-based care to community-based services has entailed that people with higher levels of need are being supported by community mental health services. This paper begins by reviewing the literature on coercion in the field of community-based mental health care and treatment. It is argued that the lack of a critical understanding of the concept and how it is used by practitioners and agencies can have serious repercussions for the rights of service users. Using a quasi-experimental, longitudinal design, the authors then seek to test some of the ideas about coercion by comparing the activities of assertive outreach and community mental health teams in Northern Ireland, particularly the key ideas of perceived coercion, workers’ strategies and engagement with services. Key findings were that assertive outreach appeared to be more successful at reducing perceived coercion, minimizing the need for coercive strategies, engaging high-risk clients and reducing inpatient bed use. These findings are compared with other studies in this area. The authors also argue that there is a need for greater transparency in the way that practitioners use coercive measures and more explicit guidance is required in this crucial area of mental health practice.

Keywords: mental health; coercion; engagement; assertive outreach

Journal Article.  8275 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Work

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