Forensic psychiatry is a subspecialty in the field of Psychiatry that deals with the assessment, evaluation, and management of the mental health of individuals involved in legal proceedings. Forensic psychiatrists undergo one to three years of subspecialty training on top of their basic training in the field of psychiatry.
Forensic psychiatrists perform the following:
- Evaluation of competence of court witnesses - Forensic psychiatrists are responsible for the evaluation of the mental competence of witnesses who will stand in court. They determine whether those who stand in court are in the right mental state and whether those who are accused understand what is being accused of them. Forensic psychiatrists also determine whether witnesses who stand in court are credible enough to provide statements. Examples of individuals who may need competence evaluation are minors, patients with psychiatric disorders, or people with cognitive impairment.
- Evaluation of the mental state of accused suspects at the time of the crime. Forensic psychiatrists are responsible for the evaluation of the mental state of an accused at the time of the crime. This is especially needed in cases where the insanity plea is used. Forensic psychiatrists determine whether an individual is in his right mind and can execute proper judgement at the time of the commitment of the crime.
- Management of mental health of persons in jail or other detainment facilities. Forensic psychiatrists manage the mental health of individuals who are in prison. They treat conditions like depression, schizophrenia, or other forms of psychosis which can be aggravated by being exposed to a traumatic event or being locked up in a detainment facility.
- Providing expert opinion - Forensic psychiatrists are often called in court to provide their expert opinion on some medical issues that might require clarification for the common people. They provide a detailed explanation of some medical concepts to help the court and the jury understand the nature of a specific issue.