Ethics in Mental Health Research: Principles, Guidance, and Cases
Research holds a key to preventing and effectively treating mental disorders, including ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, and substance abuse. Yet even as research holds out promise, mental health researchers face numerous ethical challenges. Responsible for ensuring participants are able and
willing to grant consent, researchers must also constantly protect privacy and confidentiality. But for so many situations, the appropriate decisions are not so clear. An individual with cognitive deficits may have difficulty understanding a research study and granting informed consent, but
nevertheless wants to participate. Many studies gather private information about medical records or illegal behaviors that could lead to emotional, social, or legal harm if shared, yet state laws and institutional review boards may require researchers to breach confidentiality in specific
situations. Moreover, mental health consumers and other vulnerable research participants are frequently familiar with historical cases of abuse of human subjects, and may be mistrustful of researchers or fear exploitation.
At the same time, researchers are often frustrated when they feel that advocates or institutional review boards erect barriers to research, even while failing to enhance the ethical treatment of participants. Ethical research is rarely simply about avoiding bad activities, and more frequently about
Ethics in Mental Health Research explores how ethical issues arise in mental health research, and offers concrete guidance to researchers who seek to comply with federal regulations while conducting research that is at once ethical and scientifically credible. Case studies used throughout illustrate