Mental patients live in a topsy-turvy world. Their human rights shift as they transition through darkness into a frustratingly difficult reality of wrongs. If they speak up about their illnesses, they may not be heard and they frequently don't get much help. More often than not, they are left alone to suffer. If they speak too loudly, they may be drugged into oblivion, shocked into memory loss, put into hospital unwillingly or locked up in rubber rooms.
Mentals are expected to look through the looking glass: see past their dark sides, focus on other peoples' bright sides, ignore their symptoms, accept doubters' platitudes, and use their anguish-ridden brains to cope. They have to accept and support another reality where rights are wrong and wrongs are right. Consider the rights of normals; compare them with people who suffer with a mental illness (mentals). Mentals can't easily cross the reality divide or claim human rights.
1. Right to healthcare consistent with professional practice guidelines. When human beings get hurt or sick, accurate root-cause diagnosis and restorative treatment are their medical rights. Medical care for normals is based on finding the causes of their symptoms and treating the real illnesses.
Mental patients can suffer quick and easy 'care' by labeling and drugging; minimalist medical effort by finding fault and doing nothing; or even negligence by misdiagnosing and mistreating. The brain pain of mentals may be numbed and their brains may be dumbed by powerful drugs. Synthetic medications can and often do make sick people worse. Their ill-being may be multiplied by side effects which they are told will go away. Meanwhile their doses may be increased until side effects turn into adverse effects. Doctors, pharmacists, drug companies and regulatory bodies know that drugs for mental illness cause many side effects. They can make sick people worse. The right medications, in the right doses can be very helpful if they are prescribed by competent mental healthcare professionals who have taken careful patient and family medical and mental histories and done thorough medical and mental tests to diagnose the correct illnesses. Therapy can also help people understand their mental illness and cope with their disabilities.
2. Right to R.A.I.S.E.= respect, approval, inclusion, support and encouragement.
Mentals are more likely to get disrespect, disapproval, exclusion, put-downs and discouragement.
3. Right to patient care, help, comfort, consideration, and compassion.
Mentals may experience impatient abuse, discomfort, cruelty, shunning or even hate.
4. Right to peace of mind and a place in society.
Mentals who suffer with multiple involuntary symptoms, as well as adverse and side effects of powerful psychiatric medications, often suffer their turmoil in isolation - shunned by polite society, family and friends during, after or because of episodes of illness, moods and outbursts. Mentals can become social lepers. Some people treat their dogs better than their relatives who experience episodes of mental illnesses.
5. Right to be believed. Normal peoples' reasonable comments are trusted and considered.
Mental patients and former mental patients are not credible. Normals distrust, dismiss, discount and dispute what mentals say - mentals may often be right, but they can't be right enough for many normals to hear their words or trust their concerns.
6. Right to have patients' complaints about medical negligence or sub-standard medical care taken seriously, investigated, verified and sanctioned.
Mentals who report short-cuts, alternatives or carelessness by healthcare professionals (who ignore their practice guidelines) are likely to be dismissed, sloughed off, discounted and ignored.
7. Right to justice. In the normal world, people who break the criminal code are subject to investigations, charges, prosecutions and sanctions.
Mentals may have doctors who use negligent medical 'care', prescribe psychiatric pills which are considered noxious substances at high doses, cause harm, 'torture' people with drugs and shocks, ignore suicidal thoughts or watch sick patients deteriorate until they take their own lives. These behaviors violate the criminal code and lead to prosecutions unless the victims are mental patients. It is difficult to get hard evidence to prove allegations of criminal code violations against mental patients if the perpetrators keep smiling and seem to be sincere healthcare professionals.
8. Right to workplace equity, career opportunities and disability insurance coverage when an illness lasts for weeks / months / years.
Mentals whose brains don't function properly during episodes of illness cannot prove their disabilities. . Mental illness is an invisible disability. There are no blood tests, blood losses, x-rays or limping limbs to prove that mentals' brains aren't working properly during episodes. Repeated episodes of mental illness can reduce or destroy peoples' rights to be treated fairly and equitably by employers and co-workers, unless mental patients keep silent about the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of their mental problems.
Keeping silent about their dark-sided reality means mentals do not qualify for anything other than negative performance reviews. Speaking up about their problems with mental illness may mean that mentals find themselves disqualified from promotions, sidetracked from career opportunities or shown out the door by co-workers, friends, contacts and employers!
Mental illness is a disabling handicap but it does not stop mentals from wanting to work, advance in careers, make money, support themselves and provide for their families. Mentals are often unable to claim financial support from insurance companies they pay disability insurance premiums to. Disability due to mild to moderate physical illness is covered; ongoing mental illness is usually not covered by insurance unless the patient is raving mad or psychotic.
9. Right to be normal fallible human beings.
Mental patients may find that no matter what they do, it isn't good enough to claim their rights as fallible human beings. They are often stigmatized and dehumanized, tainted and distanced.
10. Right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The North American dream.
Mental patients may find these dreams are open to normals but closed to mentals. Many mentals may just exist as the living dead, people without rights, freedoms curtailed, and happiness replaced with suffering.
Conclusion and caution to reader
Mental patients may assume they are entitled to the same rights as anyone else. There is another reality for mentals, where people are shaken and shattered, abused and attacked, drugged and shocked. Be warned: if you suffer with mental health problems, you can easily find yourself living in a world where your rights are considered wrong and wrongs become your only rights. This does not mean you should stop trying; everyone has problems - even normals. If you suffer with a mental illness, you can ask for mental healthcare that is consistent with the practice guidelines of psychiatry. You can ask for an accurate diagnosis and restorative care. You can ask for information about your diagnosis and treatment, progress and prognosis. You can find competent mental healthcare, restore brain function, live well, work consistently and provide for yourself and your family.
by R Sealey, BSc, CA