Journal Article

Shaping the Future of Mental Health Policy and Legislation in Northern Ireland: The Impact of Service User and Professional Social Work Discourses

George Wilson and Martin Daly

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 37, issue 3, pages 423-439
Published in print April 2007 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online March 2007 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcm021
Shaping the Future of Mental Health Policy and Legislation in Northern Ireland: The Impact of Service User and Professional Social Work Discourses

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This paper explores the complex interrelationship between service user and professional social work discourses and provides a critical commentary on their respective contributions to the recent review of mental health policy and legislation in Northern Ireland. The analysis indicates that dominant trends in mental health care, as mediated through service structures and institutional identities, have tended to prioritize the more coercive aspects of the social work role and reinforce existing power inequalities with service users. It is argued that such developments underline the need for a ‘re-focusing’ debate in mental health social work to consider how a more appropriate balance can be achieved between its participatory/empowering and regulatory/coercive functions. Whilst highlighting both congruence and dissonance between respective discourses, the paper concludes that opportunities exist within the current change process for service users and social workers to build closer alliances in working together to reconstruct practice, safeguard human rights and develop innovative alternatives to a traditional bio-medical model of treatment.

Keywords: mental health; service user; social work; discourses

Journal Article.  7429 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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