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Mental Health Rights

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Being an adult with a disability can be very frustrating at times. I was in all AP classes in high school, always on the Dean's list, graduated magna cum laude, got a Master's, became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, but I can't do my own grocery shopping.

I need help with my housework, especially the dishes, because it's so difficult to touch icky things.

I need to run errands and schedule appointments on days that my mom or a support person is available because I'm too anxious to drive more than a couple of miles.

I never thought this would be my life.

I thought I would be at the epitome of my career,

I thought I would have a husband and kids.

I thought that I would be able to make all my own decisions.

But the most difficult part about being an adult with a disability, is not always getting to make your own choices about your care. If you are having a heart attack, you have the choice to call 911 or to do nothing about it. No one is going to say that you are not able to think for yourself and lock you up in the hospital. You have the right to make a poor choice. If you are suicidal, you don't have the same rights. The people around you get to choose. The hospital might not even believe what you are saying, they may say you are out of your mind, and they rely on those around you for what to do. But is that wrong?

I recently heard about a woman who has having some psychotic features and wasn't receiving help. Her family knew she was paranoid, I don't know if she was seeing a doctor who would have known what to do, but there wasn't enough proof that she and her family were unsafe and she ended up killing herself and several of her kids. Why wasn't she hospitalized? Why weren't the kids taken away? Likely because she has rights and her illness wasn't obvious enough for her support team to take charge and make decisions for her. In this case, losing some of her rights might have saved several lives.

So what is the answer, give people with mental illness complete freedom of choice because they are adults? Or to intervene because it could save their or someone else's life? It's a hard decision. I can't think of a single time that I was hospitalized that I felt grateful, or like my opinions were being respected, but several weeks later I always feel grateful that I was alive and that someone cared enough about me to intervene. And what if that family could have been safe and had a brighter future?

So for now, I'll give up my rights. I don't like it, I probably never will, and it often makes me feel like a kid instead of an almost 40-year-old. But it has kept me alive for almost seventeen years, and I have never hurt anyone else, either. The system has a lot of flaws, but I hope that we will be able to keep working on them, and make it better together. And I'll keep working towards independence in any ways that I can, because I can do hard things - and so can you!

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