Monday, March 26, 2018

I'm Mentally Ill and I Have a Concern

Multiple concerns, actually.

Here's the thing. I love the Parkland students. I've said that already. I was among the many watching in awe and tearing up as these kids gave impassioned speeches that were 5,000% better than anything I, an adult, could do.

This is in no way to say that their entire movement should be shut down, that they're terrible people, or anything else ridiculously extreme that people tend to jump right to any time there is a criticism.

The Parkland student newspaper published a manifesto which is mostly great, but there is one item that jumped out at me that I disagree with as a person who could be affected by it.

"Change privacy laws to allow mental healthcare providers to communicate with law enforcement."

As seen in the tragedy at our school, poor communication between mental healthcare providers and law enforcement may have contributed to a disturbed person with murderous tendencies and intentions entering a school and gunning down 17 people in cold blood. 
We must improve this channel of communication. To do so, privacy laws should be amended. That will allow us to prevent people who are a danger to themselves or to others from purchasing firearms. That could help prevent tragedies such as the Parkland massacre.

This not only sets off alarm bells in my head, it plays into a general concern I have over how mentally ill people are often targeted by gun control policy suggestions in ways that could further stigmatize and harm us.

First of all, mental health professionals are already required by law to alert authorities if they believe a patient is a threat to themself or others. This already makes it difficult to talk to your therapist, who you're supposed to be able to talk to about anything, about certain rather common problems like feeling suicidal because of a fear that you'll be involuntarily institutionalized.

Loosening the privacy laws around mental health care further, well, the idea makes me feel intensely uncomfortable. As someone who has been to a lot of therapy and is quite anti-police and vocal about it, um... I mean, do I have to spell it out?

I also don't want someone to be arrested because they once offhandedly said they wanted to kill someone like we all sometimes do in a bout of frustration in combination with a tendency to exaggerate. Also, I've done a good amount of EMDR, a type of therapy that requires you to be absolutely honest about your thoughts and feelings. Am I going to get arrested for an honest expression of a fleeting thought about pushing certain abusive family members down the stairs?

Aside from the general problem of stigmatizing mentally ill people (which is still and always a serious problem), there is so much that makes me uncomfortable about how gun control activists deal with the issue of mental illness. I'm not even a fan of banning mentally ill people from owning guns. Someone with a history of violence? Sure. But most of us mentally ill folks have never hurt anybody. Yet we're all treated like we're dangerous.

It's bad enough for me and my everybody PTSD and mood disorders, but can you imagine how shitty this all is for people with more severe and more stigmatized disorders? People with schizophrenia must be feeling so unsafe right now.

Again, I'm not generally condemning Parkland students. I'm NOT saying that they need to leave this kind of activism to adults because adults have been making the exact same mistakes for decades. But I'd ask that they listen to mentally ill people before suggesting policy changes just like they've been doing a much better job than the vast majority of adults at listening to people of color.

And for actual adults, stop fucking contributing to the idea that mentally ill people are all dangerous. Seriously fucking stop.

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