Andrew Younkins Speakout

Submitted by admin on Thu, 02/22/2007 - 04:36

The world of mental health law and policy is filled with riddles: How do we recognize competence to make fundamental decisions? How can guardianships, which remove one's basic legal decision-making authority, be challegned? Should we civilly confine a person when that means foreclosing them from having consensual sex? Mental health law is also plagued by chronic under-recognition as an area deserving of dollars, expertise, and other resources.

Truly, as Michael Perlin put it, the discrimination felt by the mentally ill, mentally challenged and simply the "mad" or different comes from an invidious "hidden prejudice." Some legal efforts, like the ADA, have given many hope, but also produced complacency about the fundamental injustice faced by the mentally ill to this day. Many of these problems were created or exacerbated by the de-institutionalization of the 1970's and 80's, and are relatively new or controversial topics in a world of rapidly-changing attitudes towards and theories of mental illness. There still exists quite a bit of play in the joints of due process, right to counsel, and equal protection as concern mental illness, and singificant victories still to be won.

I joined the Freedom Center Legal Team in 2005 in order to help win these victories. As the son of a psychiatric nurse, I learned about and eventually witnessed the damage that psychiatric drugs do to the human body. I committed myself there and then to ending the system which produces chemical dependency and limits mental health treatment to those options. My work with the Freedom Center helped challenge unjust conditions of confinement, educate citizens about their rights, and helped FC members simply by standing in solidarity with them. I left the FC after a year in order to become a lawyer and better understand these problems and the legal frameworks that gird them. The Freedom Center carries on its work proudly and with more urgency than ever- I likewise urge you to get involved and support their work.

( categories: )