Posts tagged ‘Civil Rights’

It’s Just Like You’re One of Us (But With a Steel Strap and a GPS).

So this is what it’s come to? We’re willing to tag and track people based on a diagnosis? Oh that’s right, we’re not doing it to each other, only those sick ones we’ve so self assuredly separated out.

South London and Maudsley Hospital is trialling tracking of mental health patients. The tracker system involves fitting patients with a steel ankle strap linked to a GPS tracking system that can then monitor the location of the person.

As Gianna Kali of Beyond Meds wrote, “If you don’t automatically think ‘civil and human right violation’ there is something wrong with you.” I couldn’t agree more and would go so far as to say that you are part of the problem. There are two reasons these things happen — people in power are willing to disregard our rights and  the public is willing to allow it.

In response, a Department of Health spokesperson said;

‘This is a locally led initiative, not a national pilot.

“Patient rehabilitation into a community is an important part of recovery, but it relies on good risk assessment, trust between the patient and the service and patient responsibility. There can be no substitute for staff knowledge of patients to properly assess risk and to make the right decisions to ensure safety”.

Trust between the patient and the service? Is this what trust looks like — a steel strap with a tracking device? Maybe I’m reading this all wrong and they just mean the patient should trust the system. Personally, I have a problem trusting anyone with more power than regard for my interest. Similarly, rehabilitation only calls for patient responsibility. If it called for responsibility on the part of the system, we’d need a new one, rebuilt from the ground up.

What do you think this does for the idea of inclusion, by the way? I can’t imagine that a person wearing a device that advertises their private struggles and places them socially between a criminal and an animal to be studied is very well received in public situations. Perhaps we could forego the cost and complication of these devices and just go ahead with a ball and chain and scarlet letter…oh yeah, rights. We better keep it digital.

August 29, 2010 at 10:30 am

Australians Labeled Mentally Ill to be Held up to a Month Without Legal Review

How convenient it is to label someone mentally ill. You seldom have to worry about their rights. Whether legally supported or just socially allowed by way of a quiet acceptance (usually both), a label of mental illness separates you out to a lower and less free class. I know — it’s nothing I haven’t said before but until it changes, it’s not the kind of thing that goes without saying.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that things could be changing for the worse for Australians deemed mentally ill. Again. Australia doesn’t exactly have a good track record in terms of protection and rights for people with perceived mental illness — and frankly anyone interested in preserving their rights to any kind of due process should be concerned.

Leading psychiatrists warn that the civil rights of mentally ill people could be severely eroded by plans to extend the length of time patients may be held in locked wards without legal review.

The NSW Mental Health Tribunal is poised to introduce a new system which will mean a patient can be detained for up to one month before their case is reviewed by a lawyer.

At present someone who is compulsorily detained for emergency psychiatric treatment is reviewed by a magistrate within a week or so of admission.

A week “or so” and now a month? Being locked in a hospital is no less a method of incarceration than being locked in a jail. If you’re allowing someone to sit behind a locked door for a month before determining whether there was any legal validity in doing so, the pretense of medicine and the presence of doctors don’t mean a thing. It’s the lock on the door that counts. This is a staggering blow to the idea of basic rights and liberties and aside from those obvious issues, a month of being held anywhere  against your will is going to seriously impact your well being, family stability, reputation and of course, your employment and finances. The world keeps going by outside while you’re locked up.

“The delay in independent review will mean that people with mental illness, and the public at large, will not be able to have the same degree of confidence that their rights will be protected in our psychiatric hospitals – and for no gain but a minimal dollar saving,” the doctors argue in a recent medical newsletter. “Abuses have occurred in the past … Reducing our vigilance can only increase the possibility of another Chelmsford or ward 10B type scandal”.

An associate professor of psychiatry at Sydney University, Anthony Harris, also opposes the changes, saying they are a cost-saving measure that will remove a ”quick way that a patient and their family can query the system”

There is no us and them. This is not just for the “mentally ill” to worry about. If anyone can have their rights stripped away by a label, then everyone should be wary of how easily that label could applied to them. History has taught us many things. Even the strictest of systems can be corrupted and abused, much less a system that leaves this much room for indiscretion and is so imbalanced as to disregard your rights from the start. It’s a crime that it happens and a shame how often we quietly allow it.

June 5, 2010 at 9:00 pm 2 comments

Judi Chamberlin: Her Life Our Movement

“People labeled with mental disabilities are largely invisible to the wider world. To the extent that they think of us at all, they usually think of us as a problem that somebody has to do something about and not as human beings, individuals, each one of us — deserving of human dignity.”  — Judi Chamberlin

This is a great video created by activist, artist and psychiatric survivor, Leah Harris. I met Leah in Brooklyn at a demonstration and vigil in honor of Esmin Green and in protest of her passing for lack of care in a hospital. Leah immediately impressed me with her outspoken determination and when she’s performing a spoken word piece, she has a gift for getting to the core of what she’s communicating. What I might say in a lengthy rambling post or conversation, she cuts to in a phrase.

Leah’s been bringing that sharpness, conciseness and strength to video editing as well lately. In this short video, she shows viewers what the mental health rights movement is to many of us and what the late Judi Chamberlin is to that movement. You’ll notice I didn’t say was. Anyone who has fought as hard for and had such an impact on such a movement that survives them will always be tied to it. Benjamin Franklin once said something to the effect of, “If you are to be remembered long after you die, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. ” Judi did both. Some day, when we look back on this movement in the same peculiar light of hindsight as we view the fight for black civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights, Judi will stand out as one of its first and strongest figures. In addition to what she did directly and for its own sake, she inspired many — often at times and in places where inspiration was notably absent. I wish I would have been in a position to meet and work alongside her toward our shared purpose. Instead I am blessed to be in the good company of people she affected directly.

Madness Radio: Survivor Spoken Word Leah Harris

Madness Radio: Judi Chamberlin Psychiatric Survivor Movement

March 26, 2010 at 9:45 am

Martin Luther King on “Maladjustment”

The following is an excerpt from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s speech on the topic of social justice, delivered to an audience at Western Michigan University as part of a series called “Conscience of America.” It was apparently poorly attended. I would love to have been there. If his efforts and accomplishments were limited to black civil rights, he still would have offered us much but the principles of social justice, equality, and human rights are universal and only have as much to do with race as we allow.

Dec. 18, 1963:

There are certain technical words within every academic discipline that soon become stereotypes and cliches. Modern psychology has a word that is probably used more than any other word in modern psychology. It is the word “maladjusted.” This word is the ringing cry to modern child psychology. Certainly, we all want to avoid the maladjusted life…

But I say to you…there are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good-will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self-defeating effects of physical violence…

In other words, I’m about convinced now that there is need for a new organization in our world. The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment — men and women who will be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos. Who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” As maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln who had the vision to see that this nation would not survive half-slave and half-free. As maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery would scratch across the pages of history words lifted to cosmic proportions, “We know these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator certain unalienable rights” that among these are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As maladjusted as Jesus of Nazareth who could say to the men and women of his day, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Pray for them that despitefully use you.” Through such maladjustment, I believe that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice. My faith is that somehow this problem will be solved.

I know that unfortunately, for many, this is just a day that they are inconvenienced by closed banks and post offices, for some a day off but let’s pay attention. Let’s get out of adjustment for a little bit. Martin Luther King pledged his life to a movement that had a tremendous impact on our country but the work is far from done. Every time we become aware of the inequities forced upon others and the indignities and harm suffered by them, we are presented with a choice. May we always choose to become bigger than these wrongs and take them on rather than adjusting ourselves to them.

January 18, 2010 at 2:21 pm


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