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.