Jack Bragen is a nutcase who writes a mental health column for The Berkeley Daily Planet. He’s on his meds, and he has no problem with that fact. I, who am not on any psychiatric drugs whatsoever, on the other hand, do have a problem with him promoting forced mental health treatment. His latest article does just that. It bears the thoroughly biased heading, ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Addressing the Problem of Non-compliance Among People with Schizophrenia.
Nobody has ever proven the existence of any “mental illness”, therefore, why force drugs on people for the sake of a theory. People are convicted of schizophrenia without a trial by a jury of their peers. Legitimate medicine doesn’t sentence people to a drug taking regimen. Real “sicknesses” are not some kind of misbehavior requiring the intervention of law enforcement. Psychiatry, blurring the distinction between law and medicine, sometimes does sentence people to take drugs, so called chemical restraints, for this alleged schizophrenia.
The first change I would suggest is to somewhat extend the criteria for a 51 or 5250. An additional criterion that can be added would be to “50″ a person if unable to provide for his or her basic needs [such as going to the store and buying a loaf of bread] due to a mental illness. Such a criteria would be less offensive than the one Laura’s Law provides which says they are subject to forced treatment if refusing medication due to the lack of judgment caused by their illness [not in those exact words]. The problem I have with the Laura’s Law criteria is that the patient is presumed incompetent based on making the choice to refuse treatment. The fact that I take medication to an extent by choice and not because a law is mandating it makes a huge difference to me, to my quality of life, and to my attitude toward treatment practitioners.
His first change seems like no change. In fact I think it would be covered under ‘gravely disabled’, a part of the current law that law enforcement officers are fain to enforce. My point, you don’t make laws because you think they won’t be enforced. The change is redundant, and if it wasn’t redundant, why would authorities be any more inclined to enforce it than they are under the current law which includes something of the sort.
The second change that I would introduce is to create a 5350, which would mandate treatment for two or three months, a long enough time period for someone to get over his or her delusional system and come to the realization of needing treatment, but not such a long time that it resembles a six-month jail sentence. At the end of the 5350 time period, if someone is still unable to provide for basic needs, conservatorship could be considered. The 5350 could be used if someone has a track record of noncompliance and resultant relapse, and if currently unfit to survive in society.
3 months is the mental health equivalent of 90 days in jail. The thing is, after doing your 90 days, if we’re talking jail, you’re home free. The state isn’t likely to confiscate your property, nor is the state likely to appoint a warder to keep you under perpetual house arrest. The problem with sentencing people for non-compliance is that if you suspect further non-compliance in the future, technically, you could hold a person for life. All you’d have to do, not having trials in such instances, is to keep recommitting them to successive sentences once their initial sentence had been served. This “conservatorship”, too; what is that, if a man or woman have done their time, except adding insult to injury!?
When making the change in the law that I propose, there ought to be additional requirements that mental health treatment facilities provide humane treatment and quality of care. If we are to be forced into treatment by a governmental mandate, it becomes the responsibility of that government to make that treatment humane, free of malpractice, and respectful of basic human dignity.
Geez, Mr Bragen! Where have you been the last few years? It’s not like there aren’t requirements of the sort you would be asking for. It’s just…who’s going to enforce them? Why mental health authorities, of course. If records show enough unexplained cadavers turning up here and there, well, you call in the feds. The point I am trying to make is that when you make treatment free of liberty, brutality, malpractice (called something else of course), and indignity are going to be the natural consequence. We’re still waiting for our countries’ representatives to recognise those rights put forth in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights drafted by the United Nations.
I’ve got a better idea. Let’s stop treating people in crisis as if they were criminals. Let’s repeal mental health law entirely, including in this repeal 5150, 5250, Laura’s Law, and what have you. Let’s close those decaying relics of moral management and the old asylum system down completely, and let’s put our money into prevention, community care, and social reintegration instead. Of course, reason is not going to prevail anytime soon. Our mad law makers, in collusion with drug companies, and the revisers of the DSM, will not rest content until they’ve gotten “help” for most of the people on this planet. Resigning ourselves to having the future hospital without walls replace the hospital with walls is not going to mean an improvement in any way shape or form.
Filed under: Alternatives, Biological Psychiatry, Conflict of Interest, Discrimination, Force, Fraud, Human Rights, Investigation, Law, Mad Pride, Mental Health Care, Oppression, Outpatient Commitment, Pharmaceutical Company, Protest, Psychiatric Drugs, State Hospital, Violence