Dangerous liaisons?: The myth of mental illness and risk

RCN Research Society: Winifred Raphael Lecture – A Public lecture for World Mental Health Day

The myth of the mentally ill as dangerous and menacing persists despite evidence to the contrary. Risk assessment is pervasive in mental health practice. This continuing focus on risk, while well intentioned as it is in reducing harm and increasing people’s safety, has a stigmatising, and, in some cases, traumatic effect on people using mental health services; it reinforces the myth that people who are mentally unwell are an inevitable risk to society and that through risk assessment we can minimise or eliminate this threat.

Prof Callaghan will argue that it is the often unquestioned acceptance of the effectiveness of risk assessment and the unconscious bias that emerges from this narrative that poses the biggest risk. People living with mental health issues are frequently marginalised and often live in communities associated with recurrent harm and crime and that promote stigma. By classifying individuals as risky we are giving the stamp of scientific approval to society’s prejudices and fear.

The Winifred Raphael Memorial Lecture is one of the main events in the RCN Research Society calendar. The critical voice that nursing research brings is essential if we are to continue to improve the quality of care. This lecture is highly recommended and offers an exceptional opportunity for nurses, carers and service users to scrutinising mental health practice.

Professor Patrick Callaghan is Professor of Mental Health Nursing, School of Health Sciences and Professorial Fellow of the Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham.

The lecture is free to all, but places are limited so please book here.

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