From Rights Revoked To Rights Restored

Mental health treatment, especially where it is coerced, in many respects represents a revocation of age of consent rights. It could be said, in fact, that the matter was one of forfeiture. The problem with this forfeiture is that it is attained not through a trial but through the determination in a legal hearing, usually outside of court entirely, that the source of the offending behaviors is a medical condition. This determination is based on judicial authorities endorsing the opinion of medical experts who are assumed to know more about the subject because of their educational background than most people.

The closest parallel to this forfeiture of rights which comes with the display of socially unacceptable behaviors is in the punishment that comes of violating the law of the land. The difference is, that in the first instance, you are dealing with people who have literally broken no laws. This violation of unwritten law represents an actual loophole in the law. In fact, it is written into law in the form of those laws we call mental health law. The thing is, given this circumstance, equality under the law has found another instance in which it no longer applies. In other words, we have another instance in which there are two laws, one law for this group of people, and another law for that group of people.

Medicine, as a rule, isn’t coercive. Criminal justice, as applied by the state, is coercive. Mental health medicine is the exception to this rule. Mental health professionals are, more or less, our designated mental health police. Psychiatric drugs are but one tool, one might say weapon, in the mental health professionals toolkit, one might say arsenal, for achieving compliance among people deemed “sick” or exhibiting socially unacceptable behaviors. As you can see, this creates a nether-zone between criminal law and mental health treatment to which problem people might be contained, much the way children are contained, and disciplined, by parents and school personnel. People do not die of mental conditions, all the same, curing a disease that is literally no disease has its impossible aspects.

Reduced by this revocation of constitutionally guaranteed rights to a level on par with beasts and children, the mental patient, mental health consumer, survivor, is at pains to redeem the worth they have been stripped of to society at large. The state has, at this point, found various ways, group homes, assisted living facilities, etc., to keep the person so tainted at a distance and remove from making any significant contribution on the world. Their impact has been segregated, more or less, into the realm of treatment, and perhaps, more troubling indeed, disability. One could call it a blunted or muted impact. It is an impact within parentheses and, therefore, akin to childhood. Everybody knows their respective places, and, unequally, what laws apply to them.

Rewarded are those who obsequiously seek the favors of their oppressors and tormentors. In other words, in this domain, success, as defined by the mob, is a matter for turncoats and traitors. There are, of course, those who don’t go along with the mob, but there’s no reward, nor much acclaim, in so doing. This leaves a large rift between those acclimated to this situation, and those who would resist unto the death, and beyond. Lifetime mental patients abound, ex-patients aren’t being hired, except in the mental health field, etc., and so you see we’ve got a difficult rift to traverse. Equality under the law, you won’t get that by encouraging people, as is being done, to opt for inequality under two or more laws, laws as they apply to people with full citizenship rights, and laws as they apply to people tainted by the experience of mental hospitalization.

I could never identify with consumers of mental health services. They’d have to stop consuming mental health services for me to do that. It was Eldridge Cleaver who once said, “You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” Unfortunately, the problem is growing larger and larger with every passing second. The mental health system is expanding, and with that expansion, it is carrying more and more people away with it. I think there are better things for people of the world to aspire to than patient status on a gigantic mental hospital ward, the kind of hospital that was once called a lunatic asylum, but was in actually a big prison, and a dumping ground for social misfits and outcasts. I’d like to see more of us working on those better things.


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