Day 25: What is your opinion on forced/coercion in mental health treatment? Can be legal (law enforcement or psychiatric holds) or a “helping” friend/family member.

I have thought about this a lot lately, considering what is happening in the country with the debates on mental health. I hear/read often that people blame President Reagan for “shutting down the institutions and letting the crazies walk among us.” Well, there were just as many people wrongfully institutionalized as there were those who probably should have been. But that’s another story. 

As a person with a mental illness, I don’t want to be forced into doing anything, especially into an institution. I don’t want to be held by law enforcement. I’m not a danger to myself or anyone else. I just want to keep on living my life without intrusion. So when I think about people being forced into treatment, I try to put myself in their shoes. Now, if someone is having a psychotic episode, trying to harm themselves or others, or has a repeated history of criminal/deviant behavior, I’m all for a law enforcement or psychiatric hold for a determined amount of time. I feel that the family should get a say, but I also feel like the patient needs a larger say. They are a human being, with civil rights and it is not my place of yours to take those away without a true, just cause. 

Now, when it comes to coercion, I can understand that from an intervention-type standpoint. Sometimes, I person has to hit rock bottom and confronted with the damage they are doing to themselves and others before they realize that treatment is necessary. Is it possible for them to resist? Absolutely. But again, that person has rights and you can’t just institutionalize them because they aren’t doing what you want for them to do. This is something that I struggle with – I want for people to get the help that they need. But if they aren’t a danger to themselves or others, and they are resisting treatment, I can’t force them into doing anything, especially if they are an adult. I can’t say, “you have to start treatment or I’m not going to talk to you.” It can’t and it shouldn’t work like that. Making someone feel guilty in order to make them do something isn’t fair, and they will resent you later on for making them do something that they didn’t want to do. You do have a choice: You can either accept them and love them for who they are at this place in their lives and be encouraging and supportive to them, or you can cut them off and be petty because you aren’t getting your way. 

So in conclusion, this is a tricky situation. You have to tread very carefully when you begin talking about taking away another person’s rights or guilting them into doing something.