The effectuation of civil rights is an integral part of successful societal development. Irrespective of individuals’ health, the state should ensure that their rights and legitimate interests are protected by law. However, due to cognitive impairment, worsened intellectual functions, asocial behavior, and various neuropsychiatric symptoms of mentally ill persons, all medical professionals involved in mental health care should prudently advocate and promote the rights of their patients.
Limitations on Civil Rights of Mentally Ill Individuals
Every democratic society guarantees that its citizens’ rights are protected from infringement and discrimination. In conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, mentally ill people have the right to education, work, independent living, and full-fledged inclusion in society (Wahlbeck, 2015). However, the United States’ legislation limits the civil rights of individuals with mental illnesses (Henderson et al., 2014; Wahlbeck, 2015). Specifically, in 20 states, mentally ill persons are legally incapable of “voting, jury duty, elective office, parenting, and marriage rights” (Corrigan, Druss, & Perlick, 2014, p. 49).
Although the aforementioned limitations are partly caused by stigmatizing beliefs, they are not totally unreasonable (Henderson et al., 2014). Depending on the severity of their disorder, people with mental health disabilities frequently experience alienation from themselves and others, as well as difficulties in socializing, solving problems, and performing various intellectual operations (Corrigan et al., 2014). Degenerative behavioral and mental changes, cognitive deficiencies, memory loss, aggressive behaviour, and other manifestations of mental disorders are observed in people with mental illnesses. Psychosomatic disorders impact mentally ill individuals’ interactions with family members, colleagues, health care providers, and other surrounding persons.
Provision of Civil Rights in Mental Health-Care Clinical Settings
While performing behavioral intervention strategies, required diagnostics, day-to-day care, and other procedures, health care providers should consider disease-caused abnormalities of their patients. Wahlbeck (2015) emphasizes that persons with mental health problems should be treated “with dignity and respect” (p. 39). Nevertheless, being extremely vulnerable to emotional disturbances and unexpected occurrences, mentally ill individuals perceive their environment as discriminatory, unpredictable, and overwhelming. Therefore, assisting patients in solving their daily problems, such as money management, communication with visitors, telephoning others, and so forth, mental health professionals should provide prudent care.
An effective psychoeducational intervention aimed at helping veterans with psychiatric disabilities to manage money was implemented in the Durham VA Medical Center (Elbogen, Hamer, Swanson, & Swartz, 2016). The assurance of veterans’ civil rights is aggravated by the fact that their mentality frequently appears to be maladaptive to peaceful conditions, standard societal values, and generally accepted behavioral norms. Veterans diagnosed with schizophrenia, depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder participated in the $teps
for Achieving Financial Empowerment ($AFE) program (Elbogen et al., 2016). The participants were taught to save money, manage discounts, and “avoid various forms of financial exploitation” (Elbogen et al., 2016, p. 1143). The interventions resulted in the patients’ improved money-saving behavior and perceived empowerment. Given the similarity of problems with money management experienced by other mentally ill patients, the $AFE program is a promising approach to mental health care.
Summing up, the delivery of health care services to people with mental health disabilities should be in line with legislation related to civil rights. Health care providers’ performance should be grounded on the principle of nonmaleficence. At the same time, they have to fully understand that patients’ mental problems and behavioral abnormalities are manifestations of their disorders.
Corrigan, P., Druss, B., & Perlick, D. (2014). The impact of mental illness stigma on seeking and participating in mental health care. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 15(2), 37-70.
Elbogen, E. B., Hamer, R. M., Swanson, J. W., & Swartz, M. S. (2016). A randomized clinical trial of a money management intervention for veterans with psychiatric disabilities. Psychiatric Services, 67(10), 1142-1145.
Henderson, C., Noblett, J., Parke, H., Clement, S., Caffrey, A., Gale-Grant, O.,… Thornicroft, G. (2014). Mental health-related stigma in health care and mental health-care settings. The Lancet Psychiatry, 1(6), 467-482.
Wahlbeck, K. (2015). Public mental health: The time is ripe for translation of evidence into practice. World Psychiatry, 14(1), 36-42.