Friday, July 8, 2016

Why the Murphy Bill Will Harm Neurodivergent People

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is a bill that is said to increase access to mental health services. However, it is not as innocuous as it sounds. It was proposed due to the idea that mass shootings are due to people with mental illness. However, the diagnoses of mental illness in shooters are highly speculative and done by people with little understanding of what the mental illness they are armchair diagnosing is. They may even call a condition a mental illness when it is not, such as when they diagnose a shooter with autism. This trend demonizes neurodivergent people by making the public believe that they are violent.

On top of the saneist basis for the bill, it would allow the rights of neurodivergent people to be violated. One right that it can violate is their right to privacy. The bill allows a loophole in HIPAA that allows anyone considered a caregiver to access someone's mental health records. This includes past legal guardians. This means that abusive parents can access them to use them against their child. Even though a documented history of abuse keeps them from being considered a caregiver, they often can get away with abuse.

Another right it would violate is the right to consent to treatment. The act would allow someone to have court-ordered treatment if they meet a certain set of criteria. One of them is if they are "persistently and acutely disabled". One of the criterion for being considered persistently and acutely disabled is if their illness impairs their ability to make an informed decision about treatment. However, because it is commonly believed that a mentally ill person withholding consent is a sign that they lack insight, this will not protect them against abuse.

Finally, the act would make changes to PAIMI that would make it far more difficult to protect the rights of the mentally ill. It would discourage the mentally ill to speak up if their treatment is harmful or if their caregiver is abusive, compounding the problems with coercive treatment and privacy violations. It would discourage counseling if someone wants to refuse treatment or go against their caregiver's wishes. On top of that, it would only advocate against the neglect and abuse of the mentally ill, keeping other issues the mentally ill have from being advocated for. Also, because mentally ill individuals would not be supported if their treatment is harmful, it would fail in protecting them against abuse.

If you live in the US and have spoons, please make sure to contact your senator about this bill. Also, please make sure to let other people know the harm this bill would do.