Response to “Power Needed To Make Potentially Dangerous People Take Their Meds”

in the Hartford Courant

Greg Benson
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The title of the article, “Power Needed To Make Potentially Dangerous People Take Their Meds,” concedes that Intensive Outpatient Commitment Laws preemptively abridge the liberty of individuals who haven’t done anything wrong and haven’t even been accused of doing anything wrong.  Forcibly invading individuals with harmful psych-drugs against their will and restricting their liberty in other ways because they are potentially dangerous – is a good practice?  This is a power needed by Connecticut judges?

I think that this article advocates for laws that are hideously detrimental to our communities and invokes absurd conceptual arguments that are full of holes – in a failed attempt to support the stance that disregarding the civil liberties and human rights of people labeled by psychiatry will better our communities.

Look, I shouldn’t have to prove to anyone why it’s not okay to blatantly violate the human and constitutional rights of individuals labeled by psychiatry.  Nor should I have to convince mental health professionals, probate judges, or legislators that they shouldn’t do something that would be illegal regardless of whether or not it works – because it not only doesn’t work, but most often harms.  Even if so called Intensive Outpatient Commitment led to 100% of people court ordered enjoying super rad healthy lives 100% of the time – it would still be inhumane and unconstitutional.

It terrifies and enrages me that the powers that be are deciding if they should violate human rights based on whether or not forced “treating,” in direct violation of the US Constitution and the UN Declaration of Human Rights – works.  Guess what?  It doesn’t work!

This article says, “Studies show, however, that the judge’s order is usually enough to make most mentally ill patients cooperate.”  You know what numerous studies also show?  Numerous studies show that individuals who voluntarily, cooperatively, non-cooperatively, or involuntarily, receive psych “treatment” are on average dying twenty-five years younger than the general US population and are going on disability, going to jail, and taking their own lives at astronomically disproportionate rates relative to the US population as a whole.  Numerous studies show that the vast majority of highly publicized individuals who used guns to kill people since 1968 were either on psych drugs or were withdrawing from psych drugs.  Doesn’t seem like voluntary, let alone forced engagement with this “treatment” is likely to better our communities in response to a tragedy – or at any time.

Is it sad that we cannot institutionalize people until after they commit a crime (please remember threatening people is an arrestable offense), hurt themselves or others, or have become an imminent danger to themselves or others?  No, it is not!  I thought that was called America.

Forcing an individual like Adam Lanza, who is planning to commit mass violence, to take pills in no way addresses an intention to engage in violence.

This is not a high fallutin’ intellectual issue that merits nuanced arguments.  People have human rights even beyond civil rights.  These aren’t just guaranteed on paper by institutions like the government of The United States of America or The United Nations – these are rights derived from us knowing we are human beings or derived from beliefs far more fundamental and basic than a belief in law and order, such as a belief in evolutionary rights or God-given rights etc.  We all are humans and all have the right to not be violated, to not be tortured, to enjoy equal protection of the law, and the right to not be locked up without due process (paraphrased from a speech by Daniel Hazen – one of the best community organizers around the human rights of those labeled by psychiatry).

Those who have been fooled by the specious arguments for IOC need to change.  Those who support IOC or are complicit – need to be held accountable (paraphrased from a speech by Jim Gottstein – one of the best attorneys around the human rights of those labeled by psychiatry).

I’m tired of presenting arguments to those who support IOC or would support the direct violation of human rights inherent in IOC – even if it worked or if it wasn’t disparately applied to minorities or if we could implement it or if we could afford it.  So in closing I’ll simply say this to said people – you are wrong!

Greg Benson self-identifies as a survivor of the psychiatric industry who currently leads an exciting and happy life. Greg Benson works as a Human Rights Advocate at Advocacy Unlimited Inc. in Wethersfield, Connecticut.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. What’s up my man Greg! Look at you in a beard, very spiffy. You’re such a talented writer, I hope to see more. I appreciate the argument that even needing an argument against IOC is a misunderstanding of basic rights and a violation of the barest of human liberties. Those are excellent shout outs to Daniel Hazen and Jim Gottstein. The battle for some truth to occasionally peek through in the media portrayal of mental illness is definitely a team sport!

    You will be slightly pleased to know that I’m writing a paper for a poli sci class this very weekend on Kendra’s Law! I have only gotten as far as the Wiki entry on the subject tonight and boy did that get my anger going.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kendra's_Law, here is what principally irks me:

    //As a result of the opposition to Kendra’s Law, two studies were conducted on Kendra’s Law. One was released in 2005[6] and one in 2009.[7]

    The 2005 study found:

    Specifically, the Office of Mental Health (OMH) study found that for those in the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program:
    74 percent fewer recipients experienced homelessness;
    77 percent fewer recipients experienced psychiatric hospitalization;
    83 percent fewer recipients experienced arrest; and
    87 percent fewer recipients experienced incarceration.

    Comparing the experience of AOT recipients over the first six months of AOT to the same period immediately prior to AOT, the OMH study found:
    55 percent fewer recipients engaged in suicide attempts or physical harm to self;
    49 percent fewer recipients abused alcohol;
    48 percent fewer recipients abused drugs;
    47 percent fewer recipients physically harmed others;
    46 percent fewer recipients damaged or destroyed property; and
    43 percent fewer recipients threatened physical harm to others.

    As a component of the OMH study, researchers with the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University conducted face-to-face interviews with 76 AOT recipients to assess their opinions about the program and its impact on their quality of life. The interviews showed that after receiving treatment, AOT recipients overwhelmingly endorsed the program:
    75 percent reported that AOT helped them gain control over their lives;
    81 percent said that AOT helped them to get and stay well; and
    90 percent said AOT made them more likely to keep appointments and take medication.

    Additionally, 87 percent said they were confident in their case manager’s ability to help them—and 88 percent said that they and their case manager agreed on what is important for them to work on. AOT had a positive effect on the therapeutic alliance.//

    They forgot to add that 86 percent said IOC (euphemistically renamed AOT) helped them lose weight. 74 percent said it helped them get a date. 82 percent said it increased sexual performance.

    I mean, really, how much more ficticious can it get? But even with all of these doctored up surveys the authors did not dare to promote the biggest fiction of all– that forced neuroleptics could help someone’s job performance. Why? Because the severely mentally ill have nothing substantial to contribute to society other than to be consumers of psychiatry. Real humanists would support job training and placement instead of forcibly medicating a person with major tranquilizers into oblivion.

    I’m so glad that you are out there speaking up about this over in your state of CT. Thanks for spurring my thinking for my writer’s weekend!

  2. Thank you for reading Emily. I hope that in the coming months communities in CT will come together and just be sad that 28 people tragically died in Newtown. I hope communities can simply appreciate that people lost their children, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers etc. – grieve and try to heal. Elected officials need to stop trying to show that they did something to respond in order to protect their re-election hopes. Suffering, death, and tragedy are part of the human condition and we can’t delude ourselves into thinking that we can draft laws that will prevent aspects of existence. Legislators – members of the legislative branch which drafts laws – seem to whimsically decide which parts of the constitution are politically convenient to honor. I personally believe that people with guns tend to kill more people than individuals without guns kill. That said, legislators correctly uphold the second amendment as more important than Greg Benson’s personal opinion that our communities would be better if we tried to get rid of as many guns as possible. So why is the fourteenth amendment conveniently disregarded and not even mentioned during legislative discussions about individuals labeled by psychiatry?
    It blows my mind that this article talks about historical resistance to these laws in CT based on concern for civil liberties – in a way that implies that respect for civil liberties is a bad thing. And that this article says that too many people who “need” “treatment” won’t comply voluntarily but that a court order is usually enough for them to “cooperate.” I think a third grader studying law could understand that doing something in response to a court order isn’t “cooperation.” Lastly, the empirical outcomes of “treatment,” some say forcing individuals into betters our communities – are tragic.

  3. I don’t know why they bothered to write the constitution. For many, it’s hardly turned out to be the bulwark against the tyranny of the state and the herd it promised. Whenever the Constitution or some such other charter of rights probably written for a joke (as an ironic statement, written by people who have had their fill of humanity, indirectly referencing the futility of appeals to absolute rights when your opponent is bigger than you) is in conflict with the interests of the State and dominant society, it is just liberally interpreted so as to reconcile the two.

    I don’t why they don’t just use the constitution as a design for toilet paper, that would accurately symbolize human society’s desecration of it. Perhaps the framers should have added the postscript, “ignore the foregoing if they in anyway conflict with the interests of the state and the herd.”