A First Episode Standard for Involuntary Treatment

34 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2012 Last revised: 16 Nov 2015

See all articles by Adam Gerhardstein

Adam Gerhardstein

University of St. Thomas School of Law

Date Written: March 17, 2013


This paper proposes a new standard for involuntary treatment, one that does not include a requirement of physical harm. Instead it requires that individuals are experiencing their first major episode of a psychiatric disorder. A first episode standard would allow for the involuntary treatment of individuals who are (1) over 18, (2) mentally ill (the presence of a mental disorder that diminishes a person’s ability to reason, resulting in an impairment of functioning), and (3) have never received psychiatric treatment for the disorder. This standard would soften the trauma of a first episode, assisting families in their attempts to intervene before their loved ones’ lives are in complete disarray and their episodes escalate to the point of violence. It would expand access to early, effective treatment, giving individuals experiencing their first major episodes the best chance for a healthy long-term prognosis. And, a first episode standard would save taxpayers’ money.

Keywords: involuntary treatment, first episodes, dangerousness, civil commitment, commitment standards, competency, mental disorder, mental health, mental health laws, mental illness, mentally ill, insanity

JEL Classification: H51, I1

Suggested Citation

Gerhardstein, Adam, A First Episode Standard for Involuntary Treatment (March 17, 2013). University of St. Thomas Law Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2155246 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2155246

Adam Gerhardstein (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas School of Law ( email )

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