The social utility of community treatment orders: Applying Girard’s mimetic theory to community-based mandated mental health care.

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The social utility of community treatment orders: Applying Girard's mimetic theory to community-based mandated mental health care.

Nurs Philos. 2019 Aug 22;:e12280

Authors: Jager F, Perron A

Abstract
Serious mental illness (SMI) has long posed a dilemma to society. The use of community treatment orders (CTOs), a legal means by which to deliver mandated psychiatric treatment to individuals while they live in the community, is a contemporary technique for managing SMI. CTOs (or a similar legal mechanism) are used in every province in Canada and in many jurisdictions around the world in the care and management of clients with severe and persistent mental illness (most frequently schizophrenia) who have a history of treatment non-compliance and subsequent relapse. Although there is ongoing controversy around CTOs, their use continues to be on the rise. René Girard's mimetic theory, in which he posits the social utility of the scapegoat mechanism, may shed some light on how established cultural patterns contribute to contemporary responses to SMI: how culture depends on the reproduction of certain narratives, and how these act to shape the identity of those involved. The CTO specifically can be seen to act as a scapegoating mechanism, wherein, by singling out and controlling individuals who appear to threaten social order, social order is restored. This paper reviews Girard's theory, looks at how it has been applied to SMI, and then considers how it may illuminate the social role of the CTO. This examination may provide mental health nurses with insight into the constructed identities of their patients, as well as the role of mental health care within broader cultural narratives.

PMID: 31441197 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]