Open forum: A Letter to the Territory’s Mental Health Justice System

Mental Health America

Dear Source:

An Open Letter to the Territory’s Mental Health Justice System:

According to Mental Health America, the rights of persons with mental health and substance use conditions include: liberty and autonomy, protection from seclusion and restraint, community inclusion, access to services and privacy.

Unfortunately, it has long been the case that individuals with mental health conditions are among the most abused and discriminated against in our islands. Abuse and discrimination of persons diagnosed with mental health conditions continues to be a serious problem in our territory. The loss of human dignity associated with abuse, discrimination, and stigma is criminal.

As the justice system, it is your duty work to address abuses in the system as well as the fight against abuse and discrimination. This is essential to our history as a nation and continues to guide our legal system.

The VI justice system must ensure its commitment to the principles of human and civil rights inherent in the concepts of equal justice under the law with no exceptions. This includes the rights of persons with mental health conditions. People living with mental health conditions have the right to make decisions about their lives, including their treatment, especially a healthcare plan that ensures their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Just as all Americans, they should be assumed competent to make their own decisions, and a refusal of any type of treatment should not be considered evidence that a person is incompetent. A person’s preferences, similar to those that would be referenced in a psychiatric advanced directive, should be followed and all effort should be made to engage individuals in voluntary services.

There is a diverse selection of treatments for mental health conditions; however, all medications pose some risks and many pose quite serious risks to the health of the persons who take them, particularly when medications are taken for extended periods to treat mental health conditions considered chronic.

For this reason and because of the legal commitment to the autonomy and dignity of persons with mental health conditions, Mental Health America outlines the following basic human rights:
The court should uphold a person’s right to refuse medication and not allow persons with mental health conditions to be stripped of their rights due to their refusal of medications.
Persons with mental health conditions should have the right to receive treatment services in a setting and under conditions that are the most supportive of personal liberty
Persons with mental health conditions should have the right to receive treatment and services with informed consent.
Finally, persons with mental health conditions should have the right to a humane treatment environment affording appropriate privacy and personal dignity and protection from harm.
Persons with mental health conditions should have the right to be deemed competent to exercise all constitutional, statutory and common law rights and privileges and to manage one’s own affairs.
As a person with a mental health condition, I deserve the right to stigma-free court procedures including guardianship procedures.

Discrimination, abuse, ostracism, racism, stigma and other forms of social prejudice should be identified and vigorously opposed at every opportunity, not excusing violations against persons with mental illness. Many persons diagnosed with mental illnesses have a long history of abuse as a child and trauma. The deliberate and malicious neglect of rights is not helpful or necessary when an individual has a mental health condition, especially when trauma or abuse is involved.

Abusive guardians or clinicians are not adequate guardians, seeing that they further aggravate symptoms, cause distress, are manipulative, demoralize and often do not work to arrange any medical, social, legal, or financial assistance for those suffering with mental health conditions. We must be interested in the total spiritual, mental and physical well-being of all persons suffering with mental health conditions.

All of the various medications prescribed are known under the court of law to cause detrimental side effects and have been subject to recall, or are being deliberated in malpractice proceedings. This fact is often not disclosed by clinicians, which shows a lack of due diligence, in following medical malpractice laws. Guardians and clinicians, often commit abuses, fraud and perjury to maintain control of persons diagnosed with mental health conditions, and submit the mentally ill to involuntary and cruel practices.

Moreover, our local police authorities, often commit unquestionably illegal violent acts, sometimes fatal, which violate the legal human rights of persons, especially those diagnosed with mental health conditions.

Our justice system needs to reverse its approach to mental health and put the burden of proof of irresponsibility on corrupt clinicians. Past and current mental health systems’ human rights violations by clinicians have all too often been swept under the rug, hidden from the very persons whose rights have and still are violated continually.

When will our territorial justice system hold accountable the serial violators of mass human rights abuses, our wanton mental health clinicians? This willful abandonment of the law is inexcusable and immoral under the court of law.

Abigail Cyntje, St. Croix