Involuntary mental health “treatment” = torture

I can agree that all the treatment I received involuntarily was indeed torture.

From The Diamond Valley Leader a piece about Tina Minkowitz who works tirelessly for our rights:

IF someone decides not to have chemotherapy in Victoria; that’s their choice.

If they want to opt out of an organ transplant, or forego taking daily insulin injections; people have that right.

But if you have a mental illness in this state and you refuse treatment, you will most likely be treated against your will.

This emotional and ethically fraught debate of whether someone with a mental illness has the insight to rationally refuse treatment is bread and butter for Tina Minkowitz.

Ms Minkowitz, one of the world’s leading human rights lawyers in the areas of mental health and disability, tackled these issues as guest speaker at the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations’ conference in Melbourne last week.

The New York resident is also co-chair of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, a movement that sees involuntary mental health treatment as paramount to torture.

And her visit, in which she stayed in Eltham, was timely given Victoria is undergoing the first comprehensive review for more than two decades of its Mental Health Act – the laws surrounding the involuntary treatment of the state’s most unwell.

Harmful, not helpful

Ms Minkowitz, who played a key role in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said often the best intentions from medical professionals were often actually more traumatic than therapeutic. (rest of article)

13 thoughts on “Involuntary mental health “treatment” = torture

    1. thanks for sharing Jaleesa,
      I’ve not welcomed you officially…I used to answer most comments but haven’t been able to keep up lately…but do know I appreciate your participation and am glad to have you here.


  1. Yes, Tina is spot on. Somehow there is a public perception that people labeled with ‘mental illness’ cannot make rational decisions about themselves. Who is delusional?

    Many people with psycho/social difficulties are diagnosed ( to diagnose means to understand!!!) as ‘mentally ill’ despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence to prove this.

    Many of us who have been labeled ‘mentally ill’ know that we are very rational when we want to refuse poisonous, disabling drugs. After all we are the ones who have experienced these drugs. They can in fact severely diminish our cognitive powers. They have many severe adverse effects on our health both physically, emotionally and spiritually. Yet, the medical profession are deluded into believing they are for our ‘good’ and are justified in using violent ways to force them on us. Of course this is torture.
    It is torture to be out of touch with your emotions. It is torture not to be aware of your environment. It is torture to have extreme restlessness. It is torture to shake so much that it is very difficult to perform simple tasks. It is torture to have your gifts ( musical, artistic etc.) almost annihilated. Remember this is all medically induced. This is all because you are forced to receive psychotropic drugs. You will most likely have all these adverse effects and many more.

    When the torture is complete and the drugs are administered to effect, then if you continue to consume their poison, you can become compliant, even with many adverse effects. You can forget the person you once were and even think the drugs are helping you.

    Is this not a crime against humanity?………….Mary


  2. Ok, just did some research on California. Looks like the way the law is written, it’s really in a clinician’s best interest to respect the APD, since if they DO respect it, they’re shielded from liability, and if they don’t, and the patient suffers damages, they are explicitly held liable. That’s not to say they will ultimately be respected when push comes to shove (I mean, John George/AKA Highland Hospital breaks psychiatric laws all the time), but I still think it’s not a bad idea.


  3. That’s ridiculous. I asked to be committed, but in the end, the doctor still put it down as a 5150. Well, I’m thinking it can’t hurt, so I did have them filled out and signed and will have them witnessed, notarized, and sent off. It’s better than nothing, especially if they do something to me, and it gives me horrible longterm effects, when I go to sue… of course, I don’t think I will ever be in that position again, since I will never go to the ER again if I’m having psychological trouble.


  4. I am only familiar with the Advanced Directives in the state where I live. You may be right Gianna in saying if push comes to shove the “providers” will make the call, and as you have pointed out in so many ways, why is that? Because of ignorance! I believe the PAD to be important for a couple reasons. One is that you are the one making the choice about who you are designating as your voice should you end up in a situation where your voice is being ignored because someone thinks you’re just crazy, it gives someone YOU TRUST, the voice to state clearly what your wishes are including, and I think this is critical, what medications you can not safely take due your previous experience with them. It also makes things clear to the individual you are delegating this authority to, since we all have a tendency to forget details when we’re extremely stressed and at a time when the person who loves and cares for you might be able to truly feel they are doing all they can to help you. It is such a challenging time for our loved ones and why contribute to their feelings of helplessness? I do know the word “allergic”, when applied to a medication reaction, carries a lot of weight where I live. The other reason, having just read your previous posting on all forced treatment being torture, in the unfortunate circumstance that a PAD is ignored, it is still a legal document and even if it, and the individuals wishes are not honored at the time, it provides legal documentation that your wishes were expressed and would perhaps provide fuel for a way to mediate the situation even if only after the fact. If enough people with PAD’s have their legal rights violated I would think it would be helpful in the case of a class-action lawsuit that could ultimately alter the way people are treated within the mental health system. Maybe it will bring the day closer that, as an individual with cancer is allowed to refuse chemotherapy, or a dialysis patient to decline that treatment, a person currently labeled with a mental illness and deemed incapable of making appropriate judgements will indeed be able to decline medications, and treatments such as ECT. One can hope. By not taking advantage of the right to have a PAD in place, you may be forfeiting an opportunity to advocate for yourself. Even if it isn’t helping you at the moment, does it harm you?


  5. I am pretty sure they are equally valid, but may have minor variations. Of course, I don’t know that for a fact, but I know that nearly all survivor organizations strongly recommend them. In NC, the North Carolina State University website has the best forms… and pretty good information.

    I am either lazy or a hypocrite, in that I’ve helped others make up theirs, and am Agents and contact person on them, but don’t have my own. “It won’t happen to me…”



    1. well,
      I don’t believe they can help all that much if the proverbial push comes to shove and you’ve given reason to support that idea…perhaps you’re just ambivalent rather than a hypocrite?


  6. The difficulty with Psychiatric Advance Directives (which I believe are important, although not enough to have actually done one for myself) is that they are only valid when you are voluntarily committed.

    I have a friend who wanted to be committed to take care of some issues. We had his PAD all filled out and a medical Power of Attorney. We went to the local emergency room. The hospital’s mental health facility did not have an available bed. They suggested if he felt it was a sufficiently weighty problem, they could send him to the State hospital — but it would have to be a doctor’s decision, hence an involuntary commitment. This, we were informed, would throw the PAD & MPOA out the window, and they could treat him however they chose.

    Ultimately, the doctor refused to commit him. We don’t know why. It made his life harder for a while, but probably better now.


    1. oh…I don’t know…some people feel really strongly about getting them done.

      I personally have not bothered because I think in the end they will do whatever they want in practice…and the law supports that unfortunately.

      but it may help in some circumstances if one is deemed somewhat in control by the powers that be.

      I don’t like being a pooper if people feel good about doing them and I certainly don’t think they can hurt.

      Also having family (like you and I have–our spouses) that will support our wishes is more helpful I think–if one does not have anyone to support them then perhaps it might help a little.


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