Exploring new paradigms in mental health and capacity law: persons, populations, and parity of esteem

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This paper examines key contemporary policy and legal agendas regarding mental health, with a view to highlighting contributions that may be brought from new and emerging discourses in academic health law. In particular, it does so from the perspective of the related fields of public health law and human rights law. Whilst core definitions of public health speak to questions regarding mental health and well-being, recent reports from a range of professional and advocacy organisations urge the message that mental health remains a neglected area of concern. This has led to an emphasis on the field of public mental health as a discrete area of study, policy and practice. We argue and explain how the related field of public mental health law should be conceptualised and operationalised. This entails an examination of the fundamental requirement of law to support and promote good mental health, with a renewed focus on prevention and proactive intervention rather than reactive measures. We suggest that a framing made by reference to human rights models will support the combined ethical and practical commitments that must be met by public mental health law.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-52
Number of pages22
JournalNorthern Ireland Legal Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2019

Structured keywords

  • Bristol Population Health Science Institute
  • LAW Centre for Health Law and Society


  • Mental health
  • Public health
  • Law
  • Human rights
  • Health inequalities
  • Parity of esteem


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