Annual Conference

SF14 Discussion point: Constructing the non-autonomous person

By February 20, 2014 No Comments

Cath Roper is discussing how mental health legislation which provides for involuntary treatment is a form of ‘structural violence’ (Galtung, 1969).

  • Though it may be helpful and necessary in some cases, Cath argues that the removal of autonomy remains a form of violence and a moral injury done to the scheduled person
  • Justifications of involuntary treatment emphasise the justification of means by ends
  • Mental health legislation provides a means and justification for involuntary treatment, but there is no clear path to regaining autonomy for the scheduled person
  • Structural violence may also facilitate and render ethically invisible the real-world violence done to persons in involuntary treatment 
  • The violence is not wrought primarily by the hands of individual actors but is inherent in the social, medical and legal structures that justify their actions
  • Cath argues that we must make space for regret and counting the costs of the moral problem of mental health workers having “dirty hands” through their participation in structural violence

Questions for reflection in your workplace

  • What are the implications of this lens for workers and consumers in mental health services?
  • How can consumers and workers make space for “regret” and “counting the cost” of structural violence?
  • How can consumers and workers maximise autonomy within the scheduling process, which, according to Cath’s argument, will necessarily cause injury to the consumer and leave the worker with “dirty hands?”

Related Links

Violence, Peace, and Peace Research, Journal of Peace Research September 1969, 6167191,

Structural violence 

Open Dialogue Methods