The role of gender in Mental Health Court participation and outcomes
LE3 .A278 2014
Master of Science
Mental Health Courts (MHCs) have emerged across North America in an effort to address the criminalization of the mentally ill. For individuals whose mental illness is a causal factor in an offence, MHCs provide an alternative to the traditional judicial system through diversion toward community-based treatment. Despite a growing body of literature examining MHCs, research examining the role of gender in MHCs remains scarce. This thesis examined the role of gender in MHC participation and outcomes. The Nova Scotia MHC provided secondary data for all individuals referred to the MHC since 2009 (507 men, 243 women). A subset of those individuals referred to the MHC since 2012 (50 men, 30 women) consented to participate in an evaluation of the MHC in which mental health and criminal history, MHC treatment plan, and program outcomes were gleaned from health and justice files, and symptom severity was assessed by the Symptom Checklist 90 – Revised. Consistent with predictions, rates of MHC admission and completion were similar between men and women. There were significant gender differences in rates of psychiatric diagnoses, with higher rates of psychotic and substance use disorders among men and higher rates of mood and personality disorders among women. Whereas those with psychotic and mood disorders were more likely to be admitted to the MHC, and those with substance use and personality disorders were less likely to be admitted, these differences did not vary by gender. Contrary to prediction, men had higher rates of violent index offences than women, despite similar offence rates overall; however, this difference was only present for those who were not admitted to the MHC. Findings are discussed in terms of contributions to the literature surrounding the role of gender in MHCs, as well as notable implications for MHC practices.
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