Posts tagged ‘Human 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.

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August 29, 2010 at 10:30 am

UN Official Calls Rotenberg’s Treatment ‘Torture’

Matthew Israel, founder (Photo by Larry Sultan)

Finally — someone in a position to do something is calling Judge Rotenberg Center’s discipline-by-electric-shock methods torture. You may remember a couple of previous posts (here and here) about JRC’s electrically shocking children, many with special needs, in addition to aggressive use of restraints, withholding food and just general abuse and bullying labeled care. These are not exceptions or anomalies but the very approach the school is built upon. They are using pain and fear to alter children’s behavior and they are doing so openly — even as a selling point — and sadly, there is a public buying. Parents that would almost certainly never take a job in an office that shocks them to keep up production and compliance are packing their kids up and dropping them off for this. Some  of these children have psychiatric diagnoses and behavioral  issues, others developmental disabilities including autism.

From the Patriot-Ledger:

A top United Nations official has described as torture the shock treatments used by the Judge Rotenberg Center on some of its special needs students. Manfred Nowak, the Austrian lawyer who is the U.N.’s special rapporteur on torture, in May asked the federal government to investigate the use of electric shocks at the school in Canton.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation into whether the center violates federal disability laws by disciplining and controlling students with electric shock therapy.

“I have no doubts about it,” replied Nowak when asked if the practice is torture in an interview broadcast on ABC-TV’s “Nightline” this week.

Nowak sought the investigation after reviewing a report critical of the center by Mental Disabilities Rights International, a human rights organization.

Thanks in part to ABC’s Nightline who featured JRC story (which I missed), A wider public is aware of what’s happening under our noses — and worse, that it’s been happening for decades. Is that enough? I would hope that we are collectively disturbed enough by what’s going on to insist upon an end to it but the public doesn’t get too bent out of shape  unless it’s their own pristinely “normal” children at the receiving end of the abuse. I would love to be wrong about that.

There is no question. This is torture. This is an abuse of human rights. The fact that it is done in a school setting or under the pretense of “therapy” or to troubled and troubling kids is irrelevant if not even more damning and it shouldn’t take 39 years, the network news and the UN’s special rapporteur on torture to tell us that.

•  •  •

You can contact Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick HERE. Find out what he thinks, in the face of another election, of his governing over the only state in the nation to allow a facility like this to exist and thrive — and get the attention of the UN’s special rapporteur on torture. After all, people are shipping their kids up from other states with enough sense to ban such treatment. More importantly, tell him what you think of the torture of children and the disabled being carried out in Massachusetts. Demand change.


July 3, 2010 at 11:46 am

Free John (Psychiatric Prisoner)…Action Requested: via Beyond Meds

Sometimes blogs like this give us the opportunity to do much more than offer up snapshots from  our fairly ordinary lives or our opinions on the state of the world around us. Just as with every word we speak out in the real world, we have a multitude of opportunities to say something that matters. When someone’s words offer us a chance to become a part of the solution, those words become an action whether in speech, on paper or in the glow of our screens — and that is why I so often visit and repost from Gianna Kali’s Beyond Meds.

The following is lifted entirely from Beyond Meds. These are Gianna’s words not mine. I say that to give credit, not to separate myself from it as there is nothing in the post that I do not fully endorse. That’s why it’s here.

John Hunt is a trauma survivor with a diagnosis of ‘paranoid schizophrenia’. He has spent over four years locked up in Carraig Mor psychiatric treatment centre in Cork city, Ireland.

He has been over-medicated on an array of psychotropic medications with dangerous adverse effects. He has had tardive dyskinesia, akathasia and has developed incontinence. His physical/ mental/ emotional/ spiritual health has been severely neglected and has deteriorated since being in Carraig Mor.

He has had no access to a rehabilitation team or psychotherapist and no day release in two years. There are no plans to rehabilitate John and return him to the community where he belongs. He is merely maintained and contained. John and his family have no voice in relation to his future. We are afraid that John’s physical health is being damaged considerably. We cannot stand by and watch this happen any longer.

Sign the petition to free John Please take action here.

Facebook cause: The incarceration of John

The blog: The incarceration of John

Check back later for more links. Grainne is being swamped with calls from reporters today, but she will update me with more links when she is able. Please look a the other work Grainne has done for this blog as it’s extremely inspiring and will also shed more light on what is happening to John.

June 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Kings County and the Death of Esmin Green: Still Outraged

Some time around 6:30 am, two years ago today, Esmin Green was involuntarily admitted to Kings County’s psychiatric ER where she was ignored for 24 hours, the last of which she spent face down on the floor — writhing at first and ultimately dying in the presence of  the staff members whose job it was to care for her.

Think about that as you glance at the clock, going about your day today — how far 6:30 in the morning seems from your lunch, the end of the workday, prime time television. Think about where you’ve spent your day and how it compares to where Esmin was all that time just two years ago.

I’m still outrageed, still disgusted that we live in a society that allows that and — as long as it’s just those mentally ill over there — accepts it. We’ve created a line and carefully keep who and what lies on the other side out of our sight –as if there really is an us and a them. There isn’t. As long as we have a class of people who can be treated by force we have a public that cares little about what happens to them behind closed doors but there is no class and public. There’s just us and what we do to others, we’re doing to one of our own.

The only real rarity in this story is that it was caught on video. If it hadn’t been you would never have known about it. It would just be another death in another psych hospital — with no one to cry foul. KCHC has been operating like this for decades and even now, in their costly new building, under federal monitoring and with new accountability policies in place — the abuses continue.

I’m going to Brooklyn today — to King’s County. I’m going in remembrance of Esmin Green and in protest of an institution beyond reform. I’m going to stand aside others who won’t accept the state of the system and are standing up in the streets, demanding change — and when I glance at the time, I’ll know I’m where I need to be. Will you?

Previous Related Posts:

Esmin Green Demonstration and Vigil (2009)

Kings County Hosital to be Monitored by Federal Judge

Sexual Assault by Kings County Employee

Kings County: A Call to Action

June 18, 2010 at 10:46 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

Kings County: A Call to Action

You may have heard — you should have heard — of a woman named Esmin Green. She was involuntarily admitted to the psychiatric emergency room of Kings County Hospital, a place already known for a long record of violence, sexual assault, abuses and neglect. Unfortunately for Ms. Green and countless others, when you are someone who is allowed be shoved into places against your will, you have no say about which places and what standards, if any, are upheld there. Esmin died face down on the floor of the psych ER after being neglected for more than 24 hours.

As a telling video of the staff’s complete and ultimately fatal disregard for her was released, they had little choice but to go into public relations overdrive. They agreed to make all kinds of policy changes and rules about accountability as if adhering to policy and truthfully recording their actions was something they were good at. Knowing that if you throw money at a problem people read it as care, they also built a $153 million replacement for the notorious G building where all of these abuses were happening. Not surprisingly, the horrors continue — even under federal monitoring. Kings County’s Building R is little more than a multi-million dollar snake pit.

Last year, I attended a vigil in Esmin’s memory and a protest of the hospital’s neglect and continued abuses against people labeled mentally ill. It was organized by We The People and was as successful as we might have hoped, though the work is not done. Survivors of psychiatric abuses had an opportunity to speak out — and what some of these survivors had to say is not to be missed. I heard from several people that have helped inform and shape my approach toward activism and human rights.

This year, two years after her death, We The People will not let it drop as the problem clearly continues and I intend to stand with them in protest of a place that, for all their talk and money, is clearly beyond reform. We need to stand in solidarity with those behind locked doors and let the ones with the keys know we’re watching. Come out June 18th – 19th and demand justice, choice and human rights in mental health, voice your disapproval of the current standard of care and show them that there is a growing opposition in the public. Human rights are universal and a diagnosis cannot be allowed to erode that or even worse — invite abuse. When we look back in the light of hindsight at an era that saw basic human and civil rights denied people labeled ill and how many times we’ve collectively turned a blind eye to staggering amounts of abuse, we will look back in disgust. At least I’ll know which side I was on.

See below fliers for details and feel free to copy, repost and display them in support of the event.

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May 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

Kendra’s Law — Five More Years?

Kendra’s Law, a controversial New York state law enacted in 1999 under the Mental Hygiene Law, is due to sunset in June. If you hear about it from both sides enough, it’s easy to overcomplicate things and muddy the waters but what it really comes down to is that Kendra’s Law enables the state to drug people who they think might become criminals. Kendra’s law is in place solely to allow the forced treatment of people deemed mentally ill using fear of violence, however unfounded, as its leverage. It enables the state to strip people of their rights based on a diagnosis. Last I knew, the constitution (at least on paper) applied to all of us and not just those the state deems mentally qualified to share in the rights it’s meant to guarantee. That is a very scary path to be on and make no mistake — we are on it.

While its future is unclear, Kendra’s Law might very well be extended for another five years but not without a fight from a grassroots organization (no, not that one — a real grassroots organization) formed to protect the rights of people regarded as mentally ill — We The People. I, for one, hope they are able to help turn things around. They’ve been making their presence and stance as advocates for rights in mental health known and are taking part in meetings with Assemblyman Felix Ortiz in an effort to help restore the rights and dignity of New Yorkers.

From the Legislative Gazette:

Bill opponents, such as We The People, a group describing themselves as survivors of psychiatric atrocities in the mental health system, said this bill would extend the reach of the law to further encroach upon the civil rights of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds unfairly labeled as “mentally ill.” Especially, they said, because it removes a provision that requires a physician to testify at the court hearing.

We The People want another woman to be remembered besides Kendra — Esmin Elizabeth Green, a mother of six who suffered from depression. She collapsed on the waiting room floor of the psychiatric ward in Kings County Hospital Center in June 2008. She died soon after, unattended and unnoticed by hospital staff.

This incident is just one example of the mistreatment of the mentally ill, law opponents say, because the assisted outpatient treatment system amounts to coercion, oppression and “torture.”

I’m not sure why the author felt the need to put torture in quotes. It reads like undue editorializing to me — as if to say it’s a stretch to call it torture. There’s a reason there’s a survivor movement and it’s not because the system has a healthy way of dishing out a healthy version of care. These drugs wreak havoc on your body, alter your mind and take you over in so many instances and in so many ways.Of course, once you become someone for whom force is considered an option, these things are just details, secondary to your being kept under control. Force does something sinister that rights and law can’t quite touch. Where you were once a person worthy of care, you become a problem to be solved.

Lauren Tenney, a coordinator of We The People, said, “They designed this [assisted outpatient treatment] to make it sound nicer. It was designed to fool the public to make people think it stops people from killing people, but they’re just getting drugs and no support. The research is entirely flawed.”

AOT should be referred to as IOC, she said, involuntary outpatient commitment.

She said the law is coercive and denies people their civil rights because it forces people into taking psychotropic drugs without their consent and does not provide the proper therapeutic support.

“I’ve seen people tortured and dead from their medication,” said Tenney.

If you have something to say, sign on to add your name and voice to the action We the People are taking. Contact Assemblyman Ortiz directly. Time is limited. Do you really want the kind of guy who wants to ban salt in restaurants making decisions regarding your mental health rights? Probably not, but that’s the situation. Don’t let it happen while you sit quietly. If you think you’re out of reach because you don’t live in NY, think again. Forced treatment laws are being introduced or strengthened all over. This is not just an issue of mental health rights but basic human rights and civil liberties. Drugging to prevent crime? That’s one step too far and a decade too long.

May 7, 2010 at 9:41 am 1 comment

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