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Working with people who have killed: The experience and attitudes of forensic mental health clinicians working with forensic patients


Harris, DM and Happell, B and Manias, E, Working with people who have killed: The experience and attitudes of forensic mental health clinicians working with forensic patients, International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 24, (2) pp. 130-138. ISSN 1445-8330 (2015) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Inc.

DOI: doi:10.1111/inm.12113


Forensic mental health (FMH) clinicians sometimes feel unsupported and unprepared for their work. This article explores their experiences of working in a FMH setting in Australia. The research examined the clinical context of clinicians working with forensic patients (FP), particularly those individuals who have killed while experiencing a mental illness. A qualitative, exploratory design was selected. Data were collected through focus groups and individual interviews with hospital and community-based forensic clinicians from all professional groups: psychiatric medicine, social work, psychology, mental health nursing, occupational therapy, and psychiatric service officers. The main themes identified were orientation and adjustment to FMH, training in FMH, vicarious traumatization, clinical debriefing and clinical supervision, and therapeutic relationships. Participants described being frustrated and unsupported in making the transition to working with FP and felt conflicted by the emotional response that was generated when developing therapeutic relationships. Recommendations include the development of programmes that might assist clinicians and address gaps in service delivery, such as clinical governance, targeted orientation programmes, and clinical supervision.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:staff attitude, forensic, attitudes, mental health, forensic psychiatry, mental health nursing, mental illness
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Mental health services
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health)
Objective Field:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Harris, DM (Dr Derith Harris)
ID Code:97610
Year Published:2015 (online first 2014)
Deposited By:Health Sciences B
Deposited On:2015-01-05
Last Modified:2015-04-16

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