Mental Health Professionals’ Duty to Engage in Public Policy Advocacy

Note from the Digital Editor: In order to highlight the high-level of research and scholarship from the authors who have published in the William & Mary Policy Review’s peer-reviewed print journal, we have reproduced the abstracts from Volume 8, Issue 1 along with a link to an electronic copy of the full form of the piece. 

One reason that scientific research takes so long to reach patients is that medical researchers and practitioners often lack training in public policy implementation theory and strategy. General medical and specific psychiatric ethical precepts in the United States and in international ethics codes invest public policy duties in psychiatric researchers and individual clinicians. This essay discusses those medical ethical rules and suggests means for training psychiatrists to meet their public health policy duties in legal fora. The discussion presents a case study of the evolution of polyvictimization research, its initial lack of implementation in clinical practice and public policy debates, and a detailed demonstration of the incorporation of polyvictimization research in informing legislative action. Through systematic efforts to expand training and involvement of psychiatrists, we can expedite the implementation of psychiatric research by marshalling individual psychiatrists to affect decisions in legislative, executive, and judicial proceedings. These individual efforts can occur synergistically with ongoing psychiatric and psychological organizations’ efforts to better effect timely incorporation of evidence-based policies to improve mental health at the local, state, national, and international levels.

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Alison Journey Culyba works in an Instructor in the Craig-Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. William Wesley Patton is Professor Emeritus at Whittier Law School and an Assistant Clinical Vol Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.