ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Needs, Rights, Wants

Jack Bragen
Thursday January 17, 2019 - 02:54:00 PM

People's needs and rights are often subject to debate. People's wants are usually easier to determine. However, concerning "needs", I believe that the best way to understand them is by using "if, then" statements. 

If you are to live, then you need food. If you are to get to the bowling alley by ten o'clock, then you need transportation. If you are to keep your teeth, then you need toothpaste. 

"Rights" are a concept that is subject to fiery arguments. The Pro-Choice, versus Right to Life debate is a prominent example of that. The right to freedom of expression is non-negotiable in the U.S. but does not exist in many other countries. 

Mentally ill people should have basic needs met, but we do not have a legal right to that in the U.S. "Inalienable Rights" are a relatively new concept. However, the U.S. does not guarantee that people will be cared for who, due to a disability, are unable to support themselves or meet basic needs. 

People with mental illness seem to be unable to organize to have political influence. Part of the issue behind this is lack of income. Groups of people with a lot of money classically have influence over politicians. 

NAMI, (National Alliance on Mental Illness) primarily consists of parents and other family members of those afflicted with mental illness. NAMI does have influence. However, mentally ill individuals themselves do not have influence in the political and social realms. 

The "patient's rights" movement, in which mentally ill people organized to help our peers, and to address injustices perpetrated by the mental health treatment systems, has evaporated. Twenty and thirty years ago, persons with mental illness were organized, and we had a vibrant network of activism and peer assistance. 

Mentally ill people, in my opinion, have a right to the absence of social and socioeconomic abuse. Achieving that? I don't know how that would be achieved. Is it a need? I don't know if that is a "need," but it would help us have better living conditions. 

Mentally ill people should have more opportunities to better our living conditions. 

The above two paragraphs outline things that I think most mentally ill people would want. In the past, conditions were worse for mentally ill people than they are now. In the distant past, people were involuntarily given shock and lobotomies. That is before my time. 

The social systems applicable mentally ill people are intentionally set up to impose economic restrictions. That makes it harder for many of us to live as we would prefer. Yet it also makes it harder for mentally ill people to maintain substance abuse. Illicit drugs are expensive. 

Many people with mental illness should be supervised. It seems that sometimes (due to the systems and people that have power over us) we must earn the right to live independently. 

In my past, I've been sabotaged and attacked at times when I was on the verge of achieving major successes in life. I could speculate as to why this happened. However, I think any sort of speculation about it would be paranoid and delusional. 

Concerning what needs mentally ill people have, we need food, housing, treatment for our psychiatric conditions, and we need to have hope in our lives of the possibility of something better.