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Mental Health and the Law

Mental health and mental disorders have several implications for the law due to the fact that many mental disorders may result in an individual causing harm to themselves and others. In these situations, it is possible for the individual to be civilly committed or be let off in a case as unfit to stand trial or be given the insanity defence.

Unfortunately, society often portrays a negative view of those suffering from a mental illness, considering them dangerous and violent. This is mainly influenced by the fact that news articles are only written about the negative, rare incidents, such as the well-known incident where a man was beheaded on a Greyhound bus by an individual with schizophrenia. The severity of the situations reported in mass media cause society to automatically associate mental illness with danger, creating a negative schema in their heads that then applies to everyone, even though many people with mental disorders may be seeking treatment and lead relatively normal lives.

Vince Weiguang Li, Tim McLean's killer, pleaded the insanity defence and is said to be currently recovering under treatment at a secure facility.

In situations where an individual commits an illegal act but was not in a cognitive state that would allow them to make appropriate judgements and decisions, they may be given an insanity defence and instead of being put into jail, they may go to a psychiatric facility where they'll stay until doctors determine they are well enough to be released. Similar judgments can also be made for people with intellectual disibilities or issues that would impact their ability to control themselves.

Similarly, if an individual is sufferring from a mental illness and is deemed unable to take care of themselves or pose a danger to themselves, such as someone who is anorexic and refuses to eat or someone who has depression and doesn't move to eat or take care of any of their needs, then they may be civilly committed into a hospital or mental health facility. People who may be civilly committed may also be unable to make good decisions, such as someone with a mental illness that is spending all of their savings unwisely. In some cases, the next of kin may be given control of the individual's assets so that they can make legal decisions in their place.

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