Drawing upon the author’s experience as a mental health nurse lecturer, this paper suggests that many mental health nurses seem to have difficulty engaging with the ethical issues in psychiatry, and appreciating the relevance of those issues to their everyday practice. In an attempt to address this difficulty, this paper will present a framework that can serve as an accessible introduction to the ethical issues in psychiatry. Reflecting upon general, clinical examples from psychiatric practice, it will be suggested that many ethical issues in psychiatry are concerned with acts of paternalism and with the common justification for those acts. Having presented this framework, the paper will then subject it to a preliminary critique by drawing upon contemporary, critical approaches to health care ethics. It is hoped that this will serve to stimulate both a deeper appreciation of the relevance of ethics to the practice of mental health nursing and an ongoing critical consideration of the ethical issues in psychiatry.