Aisling’s articles present knowledge necessary to restore voice to the silenced. Her articles currently have 4.4 million page views.
Labelled Mentally Ill in a Post-Stigma Society
Seeking help for mental health issues should be as straightforward as seeking care for any other condition.
it. Is. Not.
Getting treatment means getting up to speed about the potential for abuse that may result—personal, institutional, and judicial. That statement isn’t meant to discourage or depress. It’s meant to transform naïveté into wisdom with information better learned about through reading rather than understood through experience.
Abuses are less likely once you’re aware of what you’re likely not. Here are eight tips that may save your life.
Psychiatry: The Good, the Bad, and the Criminally Insane
Psychiatric diagnoses come prepackaged with a few Easter eggs—and they’re not optional add ons. They include:
1. Instant credibility damage
2. Jeopardised civil rights
3. increased chance for domestic violence due to perpetrator claims of instability
4. Risk to housing based on spurious claims rooted solely in another person’s knowledge that you carry a psychiatric diagnosis
5. Risk of judicial abuse/prejudice based on knowledge you carry a psychiatric diagnosis.
6. Being locked out of aid, even in situations of clear and present danger by agencies assigned the task of keeping you safe simply due to knowledge you carry a psychiatric diagnosis.
7. Physical danger from not being believed by family, friends, law enforcement, or other agencues
8. Danger of family, friends, organizations, employers, etc., twisting your diagnosis to suit their needs i.e. referring to your long history of depression as a “long history of mental illness.”
it is important to thoroughly understand that carrying ANY psychiatric diagnosis comes with the above listed risks. It does not matter if you have schizophrenia or a sleep disorder. If you have any psychiatric label whatsoever it is imperative you make laws regarding mental illness your best friend and never expect those around you to behave as enlightened as they act.
4. Only two states, California and Florida, have codified, in their state Constitutions, the rights and responsibilities of taking the grave step of holding a person against her will due to mental health issues and clearly spell out all the measures which are taken to protect a person in such circumstance.
5. All of the other 48 states have wildly varying degrees of how much concern and regard they will afford an innocent person held without crime or consent.
6. Your psychiatric diagnosis is not taboo to use against you in conflict, even if you are in treatment, in medications, and regularly receiving psychiatric care.
7. Finding a psychiatrist who believes, listens to, supports and empowers you is key to keeping a handle on life anytime especially if you are from a family where abuse is a household word.
8. Are you aware of mental health advanced directives? Talk with your psychiatrist about completing one to keep with you and in your medical file.
The Involuntary Commitment Laws in Your State
The precise distance between you and involuntary committal is this:
Two people telling one lie.
And those two people can walk into a courtroom without you present and those two people can walk out of that courtroom with an order signed by a judge that allows law enforcement to take you against your will to a facility for observation.
And all of the above can be done with you never once being seen or giving testimony before the judge who signed off on the denial of your civil rights.
How Does Knowing This Help Me?
While having this information will not necessarily help prevent fraudulent committal, it will help you know what to do, not to do, say, not to say, should you find yourself either involuntarily committed for observation, facing such, or in the process of being involuntarily committed for treatment against your will.
(Being involuntarily committed for observation is not synonymous with being involuntarily committed or hospitalized.)
in order to commit you involuntarily for observation most states operate under the “imminent danger to self or others” rule alongside the “gravely mentally ill” determination which simply means a person is so mentally ill they cannot care for themselves in any way.
Most states operate under a 72 hour observation hold before beginning formal commitment procedures.
However, there is no codified, across the board or states, standard for involuntary holds so this may not be the case in your state. In your state it could be that you are allowed to be held for a longer or shorter period of time.
What is critical for you to know is that every thing in the mental health system hinges on time.
That is, every procedure, every hold every order, is based in time and on a strict time limit. This can work in your favour; this can work against you.
What is not in your favour, what will always work against you, is not knowing what the laws in your state are.
I am working on a series of articles addressing the specifics of involuntary commitment in each of the 50 states. Each article will be written in plain English focusing on what is the most important for a person facing involuntary commitment to know right away.
The Involuntary Commitment Laws in Any State Where You Visit
Does it sound paranoid or alarmist to suggest that there is a chance someone might attempt to hospitalize you when you're on vacation, a business trip, or family reunion?
It definitely does.
How the statement sounds, does not however, negates truthfulness. I personally know of more than a few cases where a person travelling outside his/her state of residence was, in fact held involuntarily for observation, with a few of those cases having long term commitment to a psychiatric facility as the goal.
Why Is This Crucial to Know?
The reason it is crucial for you to be aware of the laws regarding involuntary treatment for any state and travel to it's because you are most vulnerable when you are isolated.
When you are away from home you are away from everyone and every resource you can draw on to assist you if you need help. Out of state there is no one to vouch for you, to stabd up for you, or testify on your behalf.
Sometimes, family members or others who are “concerned“ for you, especially those “concerned“ about your treatment—treatment that isn’t the kind they feel you need—will take advantage of the opportunity an unfamiliar setting offers.
Your Life and Liberty May Hinge on a Paper in Your Pocket
What’s your best friend’s phone number?
Did you know that information by heart or did you look it up on your phone?
if you find yourself held against your will, even for an observation hold, you aren’t going to have your phone nor will you be given access to it.
If your contacts are all stored in your phone there will be no way for you to access anyone who might be able to help you.
Right now, take a pen and write the names and numbers of at least 5 contacts on a plain old piece of paper. Put that paper in your wallet, pocket, or any other item that you keep on you when you’re away from home. You may want to include addresses of your contacts as well.
You are Vulnerable in Ways You Likely Haven’t Considered
So you’re not in the “need to worry“ group because your diagnosis isn’t one of “those“ kinds?
In the right hands of the wrong person every diagnosis is one of “those“ kinds.
I know a skilled manipulator who quickly learned to reframe her daughter’s long battle with depression into a “long history of mental illness.” The parent was a malignant narcissist who knew precisely what light parsing the difference between ”depression” and “mental health” cast on her daughter.
We are told we live in a post-stigma of mental illness world. We live in that world about as surely as we live in a post-racial one.
Before divulging any details regarding your diagnosis to anyone know that doing so csn and does, unfortunately and unfairly, leave you vulnerable.
While your best friend can post day and night about his favorite conspiracy theory and no one bats and eye, when you do so you can be seen as paranoid or delusional—not because the content or tone of your posts are different from your friend’s, but simply because you carry a psychiatric diagnosis and your friend does not.
It is also important to know that should any situation arise wherein another person stands to gain something by exploiting your label, rare is the person who will not use knowledge of your diagnosis against you.
Even if only to obliquely threatened you, more often than not a person will let you know they will use your psychiatric diagnosis against you should the need ever arise. In my personal experience, learning the truth of this aspect of human nature and accepting it as the sober truth it is has made the difference between a life lived in dangerous naïveté and one lived in optimistic yet cautious wisdom.
Isolation Is Not Your Friend
It may sound like all the aforementioned leads to a conclusion that one is best hiding out at home far away from social interaction.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We seek help for illnesses of any kind with health and soundness as our goal. As humans with social engagement as an integral part of our being, we are only truly healthy when we are part of something larger than ourselves.
Isolation is a ravenous creature that feeds on itself creating only more space alone to eat itself and us alive. Many times, isolation is precisely what those who would do us in intend for us.
Be healthy. Seek help for any illness you have.
But until the day we truly live in a stigma free society, be safe while seeking help.
Never naively assume that your illness is the same as the diabetic’s or the heart patient’s. Keep your care close to your chest so you’re free to enjoy the health your treatment is allowing you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2021 Aisling Ireland