Tessa Jowell was a member of the Mental Health Act Commission set up in 1983 to safeguard the interests of patients formally detained in mental hospitals, which included visiting and monitoring their care.

Already an expert in the field, she wore her learning lightly. A team player, she combined penetrating questions with a compassion for the patients and the staff caring for them. Distressing though the work sometimes was, she was always vivacious and full of good humour.

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".