Ethics in Mental-Health

Posted on: 11th May 2023


Describe patients’ rights, the civil commitment laws and the clinician’s duty to warn. Do you agree or disagree with any of the procedures for them?

How do the five influences that must be considered of any psychological disorder effect these decisions?

What role do biological, psychological/cognitive and social/environmental factors play in these decisions?

Lastly, provide a brief case study demonstrating an ethical dilemma that a mental health professional might face, making sure to identify the specific ethical standard being discussed, as well as providing suggestions as to how the professional can manage the situation appropriately.

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Ethics in Mental-Health

Professionals serving in the field of mental health encounter multiple ethical issues (concerns) in the execution of their professional mandate. Ethics refers to a branch of philosophy called moral philosophy that consists of a system of moral guidelines or principles that focus on the determination of what is morally bad and good in collaboration with what is morally wrong and right (Molas, 2018). Essentially, ethics prescribe a particular code of behavior or conduct which is anchored on the obligations, privileges, and rights of the persons concerned (Hem et al., 2018). Therefore, ethics in mental health refer to the set of regulations that guide the conduct of mental-health professionals when dealing with patients who have psychological disorders.

Description of Patients’ Rights, the Civil Commitment Laws, and the Clinician’s Duty-to-Warn

Indeed, patients with mental illnesses or disorders have rights that protect their dignity and individuality- human decency. The guidelines for mental health recommend that patients with mental illness should be treated with a sense of dignity and respect. Further, mental health professionals should highly protect their right to privacy or confidentiality (Molas, 2018). Patients with mental health issues should be the right to informed consent, whereby the mental health professional should make the patient understand the particular treatment alternatives (options) (Williamson et al., 2018). Agreeably, patients with psychological disorders should receive mental health services that are in line with culture and age (Hem et al., 2018). Moreover, the care provided should be free from bias or discrimination based on elements such as race, age, type (category) of illness, and gender.

The civil-commitment laws are a set of constitutional provisions applicable within the United States that dictate (govern) when the situation (condition) of a given individual with chronic or acute psychiatric symptoms demands a court order to make it necessary to access mental-health treatment within a medical facility- as a fundamental prerequisite of living (residing) in the community (Hem et al., 2018). The clinician’s duty-to-warn acts as an obligatory guide to mental-health professionals, including psychologists, therapists, and counselors, to allow them to professionally breach the right to privacy (confidentiality) in scenarios whereby they have a conviction that a client under their care may present a degree of risk to another person(s) (Molas, 2018). I strongly concur and agree with the procedures outlined for the three regulations since they focus on the common good of the patients, the mental health professionals, and the community.

The Impact of the Five Influences (DSM 5) associated with Psychological Disorders the Decisions

Patients under Axis II of the DSM-5 that captures mental retardation and personality disorders such as anti-social personality disorder may fail to enjoy the right to informed consent during treatment since they have mental incapacitation (Whitney & Peterson, 2019). Patients under Axis I in the DSM-5 that highlight substance-use-oriented disorders such as mood and anxiety disorders may be subjected to the civil commitment laws due to their abnormal behavior in the court of law (Williamson et al., 2018). Patients under axis IV may be subjected to privacy or confidentiality breaches since their healing process may require a psychotherapist to engage the family for psychosocial support, thus breaching the right.

The Role of Biological, Psychological, and Social (Environmental) Factors in implementing the Decisions

Patients with significant brain damage that results in mental retardation may be denied the right to informed consent based on the view that they lack the capacity for decision-making. Further, patients with biological-oriented mental disorders, for instance, chemical disorientations in the brain, maybe denied the right to privacy since their guardians have to make decisions on their behalf, thus breaching their privacy rights (Williamson et al., 2018). Patients with substance-related mental disorders may be subjected to the civil commitment laws due to their unruly behavior in the court of law (Williamson et al., 2018). Environmental stressors may result in psychological disorders such as depression, limiting the implementation of the right to informed consent since the ability to make decisions is limited (Whitney & Peterson, 2019). Further, intense mental retardation due to significant brain damage may cause the execution of the clinician’s warning since the patient’s behavior may be potentially risky to the persons around.

Ethical Dilemmas in Mental Health: The Right-to-Confidentiality

Stacy is a professional IT consultant working at a top-ranking IT company in the United States. She has bipolar disorder that causes her to have horrible mood swings and go through progressive depressive states. These psychological challenges have affected her performance at the workplace since her record has declined at the job. James is a professional psychotherapist and counselor who has been attending to Stacy. However, Alex is a senior manager at the IT company where Stacy works, and he is a close friend to James. Over the weekend, during a session at the gymnasium, Alex meets James- and they catch up. Indeed, Stacy’s matter crops up, and Alex request to be informed of her medical challenge. Should James reveal the psychological details regarding Stacy’s mental-health condition and treatment? If James gives in to Alex’s demand, he will have breached the right to privacy or confidentiality. Certainly, James should act professionally and conceal the matter of Stacy’s psychological state or condition.



Hem, M. H., Molewijk, B., Gjerberg, E., Lillemoen, L., & Pedersen, R. (2018). The significance of ethics reflection groups in mental health care: a focus group study among health care professionals. BMC medical ethics19(1), 1-14.

Molas, A. (2018). Empathy, Asymmetrical Reciprocity, and the Ethics of Mental Health Care. Windsor University.

Whitney, D. G., & Peterson, M. D. (2019). US national and state-level prevalence of mental health disorders and disparities of mental health care use in children. JAMA pediatrics173(4), 389-391.

Williamson, V., Stevelink, S. A., Greenberg, K., & Greenberg, N. (2018). Prevalence of mental health disorders in elderly US military veterans: a meta-analysis and systematic review. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry26(5), 534-545.

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