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Unit information: Law and Governance for Mental and Social Well-Being in 2020/21

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Unit name Law and Governance for Mental and Social Well-Being
Unit code LAWDM0132
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Judy Laing
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit aims to provide a firm knowledge and understanding of the relationships between mental health and mental capacity in the context of concerns for different modes of law and governance, and under the broad umbrella of social welfare. The unit approaches these questions through a range of practical, legal, and critical pathways, explaining the relevant legal frameworks, their application, and the basis of empirically-based and theoretically-led challenges to current mental health law and policy. Studies will be related to national and international governance instruments, including those based in human rights, and will incorporate perspectives including individual-based and population approaches, and address concerns about how social responsibility for mental health and well-being is and should be manifested.

Intended learning outcomes

The Unit aims to develop an understanding of Mental Health and Mental Capacity Law, considered in a broad social and legal context.

On completion of the Unit, students should be able to:

  1. Analyse critically the laws and policies regarding mental health and mental capacity
  2. Have a critical understanding of different means of evaluating and responding practically to problems concerning mental health and well-being
  3. Undertake independent research and critical analysis in relation to questions raised on the Unit
  4. Apply critically such knowledge and understanding within a discursive, critical essay
  5. Apply critically such knowledge and understanding through a research-led law reform project
  6. State and anlayse relevant law and other modes of regulation accurately
  7. Apply legal and political principles to practical questions concerning mental well-being

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities

Assessment Details

1 x summative assessment: 1x Law Reform Project (100%) with a specified word count

The assessment will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Reading and References

Specific reading lists will be provided within the Unit Guide as updated annually. These will include textbook readings, primary legal and regulatory materials, and secondary materials such as public reports and academic works.

Indicative points of reference:

  • P Bartlett & R Sandland, Mental Health Law, Policy & Practice (OUP 2013)
  • M Donnelly, Healthcare Decision Making and the Law: Autonomy, Capacity and the Limits of Liberalism (CUP 2010)
  • N Eastman & J Peay, Law without enforcement (Hart 1999)
  • B Hale, Mental Health Law (Sweet & Maxwell, 2011)
  • M Dudley et al, Mental Health and Human Rights: Vision, Praxis and Courage (OUP 2015)
  • L Gostin, P Fennell, J McHale, R Mackay (Eds) Principles of Mental Health Law and Policy (Oxford University Press, 2010)
  • B McSherry & P Weller (Eds), Rethinking Rights Based Mental Health Laws (Hart 2010)
  • B McSherry & I Freckleton (Eds) Coercive Care, Rights, Law and Policy (Routledge 2013)
  • J Peay, Mental Health and Crime (Routledge 2011)
  • J Peay, Decisions and Dilemmas: Working with Mental Health Law (Hart Publishing 2003)
  • N Rose, The Power of Psychiatry (Polity Press, 1986)
  • C Unsworth, The Politics of Mental Health Legislation (Clarendon Press, 1987)