Ways In Which Mental Patients Are Deprived Of Their Rights

Mental patients can be deprived of the right to vote in some states. The right to vote being one of the most basic citizenship rights that a person can use, you want to look into the laws of your state, and see if ‘lack of capacity’ can be used to take this right away from you. These laws are often not enforced, but simply having them on the books besmirches our democratic values, and implicates our citizens as hypocrites.

Women in treatment are encouraged not to have children by getting sterilized. Eugenics notions and ideas have not entirely left us. The implication is that some woman are less mature than others, and therefore these women should have their right to birth babies and raise families taken away from them. Politicians and other social commentators like to point to single mothers, and call them bad mothers for not relying on men.

Mental patients can have their right to bear arms, guaranteed by the US Constitution taken away from them; this may happen despite the fact that studies show they are more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than the perpetuators. This violation also involves an invasion of privacy where the mental patient’s name is kept on a list by the federal government that can be accessed by law enforcement.

Mental patients rights to due process are violated every time a commitment hearing takes place. The Bill of Rights to the US Constitution guarantees ‘a trial by one’s peers’ in criminal matters, but as mental health law is considered a civil matter, law courts have found a way to skirt this very important right when it involves incarcerating people in the mental health system.

Mental patients tend to be denied a fair trial every time a case comes up. Court appointed lawyers often won’t conduct a vigorous defense of their clients in mental health hearings as a matter of routine, assuming that it is in their client’s best interest to be incarcerated. These court hearings, given this circumstance, often amount to little more than kangaroo courts, and represent a blemish on the face of any system that would pride itself on its sense of justice.

Mental patients, despite such endeavors to correct the situation as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Olmstead Act, are denied jobs, housing, education, and opportunities for betterment on a regular basis. The Not-In-My-Backyard attitude of many communities, when it comes to peer run operations, has tended to exasperate this situation.

I’ve only scratched the surface here as to how mental patients have been reduced to second class citizens, but the reader must surely get the idea. Mental patients have been disempowered and marginalized as a social group, and much work needs to be done before these individuals who have had their lives disrupted by the commitment process are reintegrated into society, at every level, and restored to full participation in the democratic process.

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10 Responses

  1. Any other large group of people being so cruelly and stupidly subjugated like this would likely by now have protested on a large scale, possibly with violence. Such as civil rights protests in the sixties in USA. It seems that at best even in USA you can only get a few dozen people at a rally. And then you’re likely to be outnumbered by idiots demanding “better” mental health care.

    I say that the situation is never going to be resolved without violence. I’d like to see the day when workers are dragged from their clinics and beaten. When workers are kidnapped and drugged.
    I’m serious about this. A very serious threat needs to be made to bear on the shrinks and their lackeys and supporters or nothing will ever happen. No attempt at reason will ever work.

    • Some people have progressed beyond their ‘problems’. Other people have not progressed so far. Now the pendulum is swinging. It’s no longer black and white issues, now its gay and straight issues. The struggle in this country right now is all about gay marriage. The rights of the disabled, and people who have experienced the mental health system, is not seen as so significant so long as this struggle is going on. When the GLBT struggle is finally won in favor of those who are GLBT, then society will be able to deal with some of these other oppressed groups.

      Personal salvation is a personal matter. Non-personal salvation is another thing again. I’m not favoring violence of any sort. The demise and decline of the Marxist movements around the world indicates what was intrinsically wrong with a movement led by inflexible idealogues. Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Ghandi are the figures from the past I turn to for guidance. I am an atheist, yes, but I am not an egotist. I maintain that change through non-violent civil disobedience is possible. I also maintain that it can, and it will come.

      Psychiatric drugs are another matter for concern. Safe and humane mental health treatments that don’t involve drugging people need to be an option for people in mental health treatment. Also, psychiatrists who over prescribe these powerful and potentially damaging drugs need to be prosecuted under the law. Until a serious message is sent, by removing some of these doctors from the practice of medicine, serious injury from psychiatric drugging is going to continue to be commonplace.

  2. Violence, even done well probably wouldn’t work overall but it could for some. Anyway there’s a major difference between the situation of a psychiatrized person and that of a gay, ethnic minority, or Palestinian.

    Regardless of how chummy a bunch of psychiatrized people might appear to be they really have nothing in common. That they do is the fiction. So they can’t make any coherant protest especially since they likely suffered recent brutalization and drugging.

    Most other people being mistreated in cruel and unusual ways at least have the support of thousands of each other. It’s so much better if you can point and say, “They’ve put up another 5 km of wall. We used to be able to drive there.”

    As sure as arithmetic I say that no peaceful protest, no matter how well reasoned, would ever do a thing except by random accident.

    • Actually psychiatrized people do have something in common, and that is the experience of psychiatrization, or the brutalization and drugging you mention. People are treated by force, and against their wishes. They share the experience of incarceration in a psychiatric prison, better known as a state hospital, if they’ve gone that far. They also have had their rights violated in common. Often these violations of rights involve mistreatment by staff and hospital workers, on top of mistreatment by the courts.

      Mental health organizations throw out ridiculous statistics about the numbers of people who ‘have a mental illness’. It’s all BS in capital letters. All you have to do is go to a psychiatrists office once, and they have ammunition for asking for additional funding for ‘mental health’. This doesn’t deal so much with the people who are shunted off into psychiatric prisons. Doctors there, in collaboration with law enforcement, are attaching a ‘serious’ label to these folk. That doesn’t mean there is anything whatsoever really wrong with the person so incarcerated.

      India won its independence. Black people have made great strides in attaining equality with their white neighbors. Women are now working in positions that were formerly reserved only for men. None of these gains could have happened without a struggle. There was violence, yes, but it was mostly on the part of the oppressive authorities upholding the status quo, and not without people marching for their rights. Look into the civil rights struggle, and you will see where people died in pursuit of their rights. This didn’t stop them though. You must excuse me when I paraphrase a terrible commercial, but people took a licking, and they kept on ticking. Talk violence and what do you get–murder/suicide–the media and politicians blaming crazy folk–more and more oppressive laws. I don’t think reason and reasoning are such a bad approach to any problem given that kind of result from appeals to the emotions.

  3. I must say honestly I was surprised to find that, in the Netherlands, lack of capacity is not a legal ground to deny the right to vote. Not that I agree to that, but I pretty much expected that our legislature would deny “incompetent” people the right to vote. Note that incompetence/incapacity is not the same as being a mental patient. In the Netherlands at least, you can be committed psychiatrically and n ot b e incapacitated, and a number of other people with disabilities are declared incompetent.

    • Well, that’s a very good word to put in for the Netherlands then. That, and perhaps liberalized marajuana laws with coffee shops where folk can take toke of reefer as well.

      Here in the United States commitment and lack of capacity are not necessarily the same thing either. Laws vary from state to state, and it’s a matter of checking into the state laws of one’s home state.

      There are a number of redundant and even downright stupid laws on the books in some states of the USA. I believe it may be a hanging offense to steal a horse in some states. In other places, it’s a crime to spit on the sidewalk.

      On a related note, in January of this year I posted to this blog an entry, Changing The Kansas Constitution, about an effort that was being made to change the state law in Kansas.

      What, after all, could be more of an indication of second class citizenship status, if even that, than not having the right to vote!?

  4. Two things: 1. IMO there are two kinds of violence: self-defence and revenge. Revenge won’t lead anywhere. Wasn’t it Gandhi who said “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”, or something to that amount? So true! The unconscious need for revenge is why revolutions tend to devour their own children. Still, self-defence is different. And I agree with Derrick Jensen: “Violence is dreadfully effective. That’s. why. they (those in power). use it.”

    In regard to psych professionals, incarcerating them, restraining them, and drugging and/or electroshocking them equals to revenge. All it would accomplish is that it would strengthen the “enemy”: “Look, these people really are dangerous and need to be locked up altogether!” Gathering a group of people that outnumbers the staff, breaking in at a locked ward, and freeing those kept there against their will, without using more force than absolutely necessary to get the job done, would be self-defence, or assistance to self-defence.

    On another note: also words can be “violent”, and I’m sure, certain people do experience certain of your entries on this blog as “violence” against them, as an attack against their convictions and values. If you wanted to be completely non-violent, you’d have to start and post stuff like mantras and the like only. I truly hope, you won’t! As much as I enjoy (and actually benefit from, not least in terms of “anger management”… ) engaging in meditation, mindfulness, etc., the truth needs to be told. And the more we are to tell it, the better. How did David say? “MindFreedom is not a Buddhist meditation retreat”, something. If we wanted to be completely non-violent, we’d have to be a Buddhist meditation retreat. To me, it makes a lot more sense to differentiate between revenge and self-defence than to differentiate between physical and verbal violence, accepting the latter and condemning the first (btw, cf. studies that have shown verbal violence to be, at least, as harmful as physical violence), which, IMO, results from a lack of awareness of the different kinds of violence.

    2. The more familiar I become with the “c/s/x movement”, the more I realize that there actually are a lot of people whom I have virtually nothing in common with: consumers. It is indeed sometimes disheartening for me see, how few people there are in the movement, who advocate the same I do. Anyhow, they are there, thank God!,and I can’t say that we have nothing in common. Still, our movement is divided, and the division is much deeper than any division in other human rights movements is/was. Result: we spend an enormous amount of time and energy on internal fights, waging war on each other, which makes us somewhat less efficient than those other movements. The system often gets it its way: divide and rule.

    • One could differentiate between psychological and physical violence, too, if you want to get into that kind of discussion. Some have argued, for instance, that depression and internalized oppression is violence (or perhaps anger is the better way of putting it) directed against oneself rather than outward, and against the oppressor.

      Defending oneself from law enforcement officers is itself a crime, as many people pegged NGRI (Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity) might be able to tell you. Self-defense, when you are dealing with law enforcement officers, can mean compounding a crime. Do so, and you can get resisting arrest and assaulting an officer of the law charges pressed against you. These can mean pretty serious charges, and the law doesn’t make any excuses for disorientation. Certain politicians are working to blame violent crime on the “seriously mentally ill” (note the quotation marks), and “the criminalization of the mental ill” is certainly an issue that is dealt with in several, not always, “decriminalizing” ways.

      I like the David Oaks quote you use, “MindFreedom is not a Buddhist Meditation retreat.” Flakism can get to be a problem when you’re dealing with people who have experienced an excess of problems in their lives. Flakism can also get you disparaged by the scientific, skeptic, and realist community as well. Chants may have their place, but flakes are easily brushed off onto the pavement. There is a place for silliness, it just isn’t every place. Serious doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and serious doesn’t always mean illness.

      “Consumer” advocate, or whatever, is a rather late arrival. Pull out the government money, and you’ve just got another “mental patient”, or former “mental patient”. There was a movement before there was any government money in it, and that movement was about doing things differently. We weren’t ‘sitting at the table’ to begin with, that only came later. There was always a danger of co-optation, and I guess that hasn’t gone away, but some of us aren’t ‘consumers’. The ‘consumer’ movement grew out of a government bid to defuse the more radical elements of the movement. Some of us identify as ex-patients or psychiatric survivors. That’s the good news. Everybody hasn’t sold out. Everybody isn’t corrupt. Some people don’t sell out. The ‘consumers’ are the followers. It began with people who didn’t want to be mistreated, and now you’ve got those who want treatment. There are still those who won’t be mistreated if they can help it.

  5. I think psychiatric wards in all hospitals should be closed, and all antipsychotic drugs should be banned. All the psychiatrists and social workers should be locked up and drugged, instead.

    • I think if there is going to be any psychiatric treatment, it should be completely voluntary. When I say voluntary, I don’t mean “voluntary” in the sense in which hospitals use the term today. I mean truly voluntary. The involuntary nature of even “voluntary” mental health treatment demonstrates the non-medical nature of this “treatment”. Mental hospitals aren’t hospitals at all, they are prisons.

      I don’t know about banning neuroleptic drugs, but psychiatrists should certainly stop prescribing them with the frequency with which they do today. The prescribing of these drugs has resulted in an epidemic of iatrogenic (physician caused) disease. It has also resulted in the average age at death for people in mental health treatment being much younger than it is with the general population. How do we prevent these diseases? How do we bring down this high mortality rate? Simple. By ceasing to prescribe these dangerous drugs.

      I think if you imprisoned and drugged psychiatrists and social workers you would have been as bad as they were. I don’t think murder excuses murder even if you call it revenge or justice. I think the worst offenders among psychiatrists and mental health workers should be punished by a court of law. I think some of them should be doing jail time. I don’t think they will stop harming vulnerable people so long as they’ve been given a carte blanc to do so. We need effective laws, folks.

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