NYAPRS Note: An excellent response to the premise that involuntary mental health treatment will address/prevent rare tragic episodes of violence involving people diagnosed with mental health conditions.
Forced Treatment is Not the Way
We Need to Expand Access to Recovery-Oriented Mental Health Services
Daniel B. Fisher USA Today January 12, 2017
My heart goes out to the victims of the gun violence in Florida and their families, but increasing forced psychiatric treatment is the wrong answer.
More forced treatment won’t prevent such tragic events: Virtually every significant study has concluded that people with mental illness are no more likely to be violent than matched controls in the community. Increasing the emphasis on coercive services frightens people away from seeking community-based services.
My experience as a board-certified psychiatrist — and as someone who has recovered from schizophrenia — teaches me that we need to expand access to recovery-oriented mental health services and to make them more welcoming to increase engagement with people early in their distress.
Increasing access requires more funding for community-based services, not repealing the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions with mental health issues without services.
As President George W. Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health concluded, we need to transform our mental health system from one that tells people in acute crisis that they have a brain disorder requiring a lifetime of care without hope of recovery, to a system based on the real hope of recovery. There is virtually no evidence that a mental health diagnosis is due to a brain disorder.
There are better alternatives, such as expanding evidence-based services provided by people with personal experience of recovery, called peers. Peers, like myself, are living evidence that recovery is possible. We can inspire hope in people who can’t be reached by others.
We have created peer-run, voluntary, trauma-informed alternatives to psychiatric hospitals because that’s what we needed and wanted. We’ve developed a program, Emotional CPR, to teach people to assist others through crisis. CPR — Connecting, emPowering and Revitalizing — helps us re-engage with individuals in crisis and their support system. It builds an individual’s capacity to recover his life.
We need to help people heal. Forced treatment is not the way.
Dr. Daniel B. Fisher is a psychiatrist and adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.