Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The social impact of closed circuit television (CCTV) inside mental health wards

Desai, Suki


Suki Desai


Julia Holdsworth


CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) camera use has been a feature of the mental health ward since the 1990s. However, how CCTV surveillance is simultaneously controlling and caring inside the mental health ward has been missing in sociological research. In addition, the use of cameras is also impacted by the nature of patients being cared for inside the ward, that is, those subjects who have a limited cognitive capacity because of the nature of their mental health condition, to understand the panoptic effects of the cameras.

Ethnographic research, inside three psychiatric intensive care units (PICUs), was undertaken in order to examine the actual use of cameras.

Research findings are centred on the perception of violence and mental disorder, the ability of the cameras to undermine the ‘face’ and ethics of care, and subjective experiences of patients. Data analysis is influenced by Foucault’s triangulation of sovereign power, disciplinary power and governmentality and how CCTV shapes patient and staff behaviour, how it coheres with other techniques adopted inside the ward and Foucault’s analysis of pastoral power. The findings suggest that CCTV cameras can be used to the benefit of patients inside the ward, for example, in undertaking less intrusive observations when patients are placed in seclusion. However, their uses can also result in a range of unintended outcomes for patients, for example, through their capacity to criminalise mental health difficulties and potentially minimise the life chances of those people who are already marginalised in society because of their mental health status.


Desai, S. (2019). The social impact of closed circuit television (CCTV) inside mental health wards. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Oct 1, 2019
Deposit Date Feb 24, 2020
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Social sciences
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Social Sciences, The University of Hull


Thesis (1.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2019 Desai, Suki. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations