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Not ‘us’ and ‘them’: towards a normative legal theory of mental health vulnerability

Bielby, P.



In this article, I develop the basis of a normative legal theory of mental health vulnerability. In Section 1, I conceptualise mental health vulnerability by integrating a universal understanding of vulnerability with a subjective-evaluative, psychosocial and dimensional account of mental health. In Section 2, I move on to consider the significance of mental health vulnerability for legal theory through an encounter with perspectives on vulnerability offered by MacIntyre, Fineman, and Del Mar. This offers an insight into the normative foundations of mental health vulnerability. In Section 3, I outline a normative framework for mental health vulnerability that involves a synergy of rights and care. This extends Engster’s idea of “a right to care” to mental health and highlights the role of care and rights in mitigating power imbalances and inequality in relation to mental health. In concluding, I suggest future directions for research on mental health vulnerability.


Bielby, P. (2019). Not ‘us’ and ‘them’: towards a normative legal theory of mental health vulnerability. International journal of law in context, 15(1), 51-67.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 16, 2018
Online Publication Date Jun 19, 2018
Publication Date 2019-03
Deposit Date Jun 4, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Print ISSN 1744-5523
Electronic ISSN 1744-5531
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 1
Pages 51-67
Series ISSN ISSN: 1744-5523 (Print), 1744-5531 (Online)
Keywords Mental health, vulnerability, normative legal theory
Public URL
Publisher URL


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