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In Our Own Voice

Dr. Linda Hatzenbuehler

Sometimes the individual suffers from a mental illness very clearly but they do not pose a real danger to themselves or other people. You have to meet both prongs of the law. So being very psychotic is not enough unless we can demonstrate that the psychosis also results in some grave disability, for instance that you would not know what side of the street you were walking on and you might walk into traffic, or that you became rather agitated or assaultive.

The civil commitment laws are set up to protect people's rights. And your substantive due process right is the right to liberty.

We don't make cancer patients do chemo or radiation if they competently refuse to take it; then we should treat people with mental illness similarly unless they pose a serious danger to themselves or other people.

When you're in crisis with a physical illness, the first person that comes to see you is an EMT in an ambulance. The first person that comes to see you when you are in a mental health crisis can be a policeman or law enforcement officer or some other type and you're hauled off in a police car.

The coverage for mental illnesses is nowhere near the coverage for physical illnesses for those individuals who have insurance. It's a social justice issue. It's just not fair for families affected by mental illness to be treated differently from families affected by physical illness.

We somehow blame people for being depressed and we think that if they would just buck up that they would be able to carry on their lives normally. We know better than that.

We're 49th in the country in terms of dollars devoted to mental health services per capita. So one of the reasons that the revolving door may exist in this state is there aren't adequate services at the community level to serve person with serious mental illness. Consequently they go back into crisis and they're back in the hospital.

People are in the closet, people are not admitting that they are suffering from mental illness, it's still sort of a black mark on the family and they're not willing to come forward. There's a lot of misunderstanding. Misunderstanding about the treatability of mental illness and about a person's ability to still be a functioning person even though they suffer from mental illness.