[Hpn] Self-determination & independence versus force & dependency

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Wed, 21 Feb 2001 23:27:36 -0500

Am sending the below forwarded previously published article out for those 
who may not have read it either before or recently. My apologies to those 
who have come across it before again and again.

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Still Homeless in Montpelier Vermont USA


-------Forwarded FYI-------

Self-determination and independence versus force and dependency

By Morgan Brown

For some time now, there has been much written about and even more talk 
concerning the "restructuring" supposedly happening in various mental health 
systems. So far, everything I have read or heard of, indicates to me that 
all this "restructuring" is nothing more than an attempt to find new ways to 
do much of the same old thing within these systems and within the societies 
which foster and embrace them.

The use of force within these mental health systems needs to be completely 
done away with before these systems can truly become ones of "empowerment" 
for everyone involved. This would be real change, because it is what is 
needed and because it is also very long overdue.

Whether on an inpatient, outpatient, or "community" basis, the use of force 
or coercion in mental health treatment is clearly wrong. Force and treatment 
do not go or work together. In fact, each works in opposition to the other. 
Force fosters dependency, victimization, anger, violence, helplessness, and 
irresponsibility. However, treatment which is free from the use of force or 
coercion embodies what is essential to what often becomes termed as 
"recovery": personhood, self-determination, hope, faith, responsibility, and 
independence, as well as interdependence. Force does not ensure safety or 
security; rather, it is the use of force that destroys them.

Using force is easy. Choosing alternatives to force may be difficult, or 
seem so, but it need not be impossible. Many options are available which are 
not possible when force is the governing paradigm.

If the force/coercion paradigm were no longer in place, the power imbalance 
that currently exists would cease, or at least its base would lose its 
authority. Resources which are currently being employed to bolster the force 
paradigm could be used instead, to meet the basic needs of individuals-needs 
now not met in a way of their choosing, or not met at all. These needs 
include: non-segregated, non-congregate housing, home ownership programs 
(designed by persons they are meant to assist and packaged to assist persons 
living on very low incomes), tenant-based rental assistance programs, 
income, food, support, training, employment, healthcare and transportation.

Meals on Wheels, personal assistance services, and Part B-Independent Living 
Services can play meaningful and vital roles in supporting individuals 
labeled with psychiatric disabilities to live independently. However, it 
would take a major shift in resources to fund these much- needed programs. 
In Vermont, information regarding these programs and access to them, can be 
gained through the Vermont Center for Independent Living (V.C.I.L.).

We must do several things, including these:

* End civil commitment and abolish the insanity defense for persons labeled 
with psychiatric (or emotional) disabilities.

* Hold people fully accountable for their actions if a crime is committed 
and then proven within the criminal justice and correctional systems, 
regardless of whether or not an individual is labeled with a psychiatric 

* Shift resources to fund a system that helps to meet the needs of 
individuals labeled with psychiatric disabilities in a way of their choosing 
and make mental health systems completely voluntary.

* Use vouchers to allow people real choices both in selecting care and/or 
service providers and the actual care and/or service that they may choose to 

* End the preferred-provider status, sponsored by state statutes, currently 
in place within community mental health systems across the United States.

Often, there are concerns raised about what should be done if someone is 
"out of control" or "troubled" or "in need of treatment" when their state of 
mind and/or behavior is being questioned. While the issue appears to be 
complicated by several factors, including current constitutional law 
regarding an individual's rights in criminal proceedings, it is my belief 
that people can be held more accountable by changing how they are treated, 
by abolishing the insanity defense, and by ending civil commitment of 
individuals labeled with psychiatric disabilities.

Being "out of control" or labeled with a psychiatric disability should not 
be an excuse and should not be tolerated if a person is proven to have 
committed a crime.

If no crime is committed, but the person appears to be "out of control" or 
"troubled," they should be offered voluntary assistance only or otherwise be 
left alone. More tolerance in this manner is actually needed, not less of 
it. If an individual is not committing a crime, but her or his actions are 
annoying others, then they should not be detained or interfered with-just 
like anyone else. Being annoying, a jerk, or "out of control," or being 
labeled with a psychiatric disability in itself should not be grounds for 
imposing society's will.

We shouldn't be able to hold people accountable for actions that we think 
that they might do. People should, however, be fully accountable for proven 
criminal violations of the law.

I do believe that it is possible for us to finally rid ourselves of the 
terrible burden of force and coercion within mental health systems.

One of my favorite quotes which I need to constantly remind myself of and 
which I use often in this charge of work is this one: "Some men see things 
as they are, and ask, Why? I dream of things that never were and ask, Why 
not?"-Robert F. Kennedy. These words help carry me through many tough 
times-both personal and political. I encourage everyone to dream and then to 
ask, "Why not?" This can be very liberating to one's mind, body and soul, 
especially when sharing with and supporting each other-as we journey into 
the unknown together.


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**


-------End of forward-------

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

PS  If you have not been there either before or recently,
make sure to visit Sundog Stories: http://www.sundogstories.net

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com