The Criminalization of the Mentally Ill

David Gonzalez is the recipient of the 1999 NYAPRS Brendan Nugent Leadership Award, the first person with a mental illness to receive the National AAPD Paul G. Hearne Award for People with Disabilities, and the recipient of the New York State Department of Mental Health’s Office of Consumer Affairs 2000 Consumer Advocacy Award. He writes at The American Mental Disability Clemency Organization:

Accurately identifying the various causes behind the criminalization of the mentally ill can only be accomplished by an impartial examination of our society’s preconceived notions of the mentally ill. This can be done by examining society’s treatment of the mentally ill throughout the course of history. Stigma clearly plays a major role in the criminalization of the mentally ill because of society’s inability to accept the dualistic and sometimes vile impulses of human nature inherent in all human beings. Therefore, society seeks to explain away unjustified acts of violence and aggression as symptoms of a mental illness, in effect scapegoating the mentally ill.

And whom better to scapegoat than those people who because of their psychiatric disabilities are the least capable of defending themselves! It’s a propaganda goldmine and a public relations coup. Not only do you have a ready-made population to scapegoat, but if it is ever discovered that you have twisted and manipulated the facts to hold the whole mental health community hostage because of violent acts of a small percentage, so what? There’ll be no repercussions and no one will care. While there are certainly occasional acts of violence committed by people who are mentally ill, no laws or medications can prevent these acts of violence, any more than they can prevent acts of violence committed by the general population (which has a far greater propensity for violence). Why aren’t unjustified acts of violence committed by police officers considered a mental illness? Ironically, police officers have the highest suicide rate in the nation, and suicide is recognized by the mental health community as the symptom of a mental illness.

Since the dawn of civilization, society has had its scapegoats. Human beings whose intentions are basically decent and who tend to be tolerant of other peoples have bought into the scapegoat mentality when confronted by media manipulators playing upon the fears of society. I believe that this was clearly illustrated in recent times by the Jewish Holocaust. This holocaust was committed by a highly cultured society of civilized people who gave birth to some of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, people who were the foremost leaders and intellectuals in this era of enlightenment. Yes, even society’s most educated classes have needed scapegoats…

Read more here.

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  • DeepCough

    The reason why the mentally ill are criminalized is because Psychiatry has become a fascist tool
    of the State, which uses the Law, which, in a society, is arbitrary authority, to impose the brand of
    mental illness upon undesirable peoples. Yes, it has been used by the Nazis to marginalize and destroy people that did not fit their model of the Aryan Master Race; it was used by the Soviets in Russia who did abide by the Party’s Will; and it has been used here in the United States to uphold
    paleoconservative taboos, subjugate political dissidents (see: Martha Mitchell Effect), and in today’s
    industry, it’s used for profit. Psychiatry unjustly labels people who are not born with the right genes,
    people who grow up with poor circumstances and not enjoy them, as well as those who have been fucked over by the system. If you were to read George Orwell’s “1984,” particularly the Third Act, by replacing the phrase “thought crime” with “mental illness,” you can see that part Psychiatry that predominates the courts and hospitals, that part which seeks only to uproot, segregate, indoctrinate, and torture anyone who does not abide the ultimate ideals of a specific civilization or society.

    • mannyfurious

      Yeah. I like when people bring up something like schizophrenia. They’re like, “if there’s no such think as mental illness, what’s schizophrenia?” The thing is, in many “indigenous” cultures, what we call schizophrenia is a very desirable trait. These are the people who generally become priests/shamans/spiritual leaders for the community. But in our culture we label them as defective and either pump them full of de-humanizing drugs or lock them up somewhere. Either way, then they really do go crazy and everybody pretends like it (the craziness) was something that they were born with.  

      • Andrew

        What do you mean by “then they really do go crazy?”

        • mannyfurious

          It’s typically only after they’re drugged up and/or locked up that they start trying to kill themselves or shitting themselves, or generally being incapable of staying alive on their own.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    > a Pentagon estimate, as many as 360,000 U.S. veterans
    of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts may have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI)

    when these time bombs start going off
    they will likely be put in jail
    the military finds their care to be too costly
    but the for profit prison system can make money off them

  • linli574

    tinyurl.com/cozaa3k

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