On A Person’s Right To Refuse Mental Health Treatment

There has been much ink spilled over some sort of “stigma“ attached to seeking mental health treatment. I think there is some question as to just how much of this mental health treatment is freely sought. Some mental health treatment, after all, is entirely unwanted.

I was an observer at a meeting of a task-force connected with the Virginia Supreme Court commission to reform mental health care in that state. The chair of this taskforce gave an introductory speech stating that a person would have to be “mentally ill” to oppose coercive mental health treatment. I myself was amazed that nobody on this taskforce strenuously objected to that statement. I don’t think opposition to coercive mental health treatment makes people “mentally ill” any more than I believe that support for state sanctioned assault, kidnapping, false imprisonment and torture makes a person “mentally healthy”. I, in fact, believe that the notion of forced treatment runs counter to the ideal of independence fought for so fiercely by our forebears. I would go so far as to call it un-American.

I have heard ex-patients speak about being grateful for the forced treatment they received, but I have also heard ex-patients express much outrage over the forced treatment they endured. Responses vary, as they should, from individual to individual. I don’t think that an ex-patient being grateful for the forced treatment received justifies thinking there is some kind of “stigma” attached to forcing treatment on people that needs to be countered. My feelings are, “stigma” or no “stigma”, forced treatment is wrong.

On the wall of an outpatient facility I once frequented there was a list of what purported to be “mental patient rights”. One of the rights listed on this list was the right to receive treatment. Nowhere on this list was there mentioned a right to refuse treatment. This kind of caving in to tyrannical attitudes and policy I think outrageous. I don’t think a person should have a right to receive treatment who doesn’t also have the right to refuse treatment. I believe mental health treatment, like all other truly medical treatments, should be a matter of choice and not compulsion.

The mass media is such that it is easily manipulated by big money and power interests. The major vehicles within the mass media are often owned by such interests. This ownership often means that our free press is not nearly so free as its rhetoric would have us suppose. That press which is bought and sold, in other words, is not free. This has created a situation where the typical voice of mental health treatment in the media is a voice that has been hand picked by the mental health authorities for its qualities of obsequiousness. There are other voices within the mental health system, and I believe these voices should be listened to as well.

The voice of people critical to force needs to get a hearing, too. Not everybody is happy with having their civil liberties and human rights entirely ignored and disgracefully trampled on. There is certainly a great deal about conventional mental health treatment that needs changing. If the mainstream media won’t carry those voices of dissent that occur forward, then it is up to those critics to make their own media, and to see that those voices get a hearing in the arena of public opinion.

Studies have shown that provoking a disbelief in free will causes many negative effects in subject participants. Among these negative effects are increased lying, cheating and stealing. I think it sad that mental patients, and mental health consumers, are encouraged not to believe in their own self-control as self-control is a matter of free will. I also think that mentioning a right to receive treatment while denying any right to refuse treatment is a matter of trying to cancel any notion of free will.

There is way too much dependency, and way too little interdependency, in the mental health system as it is. Dependency is a one way street. The more powerful look down on the less powerful. Interdependency is a matter of equals working together to achieve goals each holds in common. As it is, the system is often more destructive, for this reason, than it is constructive. It often becomes, given this situation, a crippling matter for some of the people who get stuck in it. Understanding this trend, I think it is often better for some people to work for change in the mental health system outside of that system altogether.