Your Mental Health ‘Bill of Rights’

For centuries, societies have crafted written standards to protect individuals and to promote their basic human rights. Two extraordinary examples were the Magna Carta of 1215 and the US Bill of Rights in 1791.

What if we decided to write a ‘bill of rights’ for mental health care? What would it look like? What ideals, protections, and guarantees would need to be included?

The many current problems with mental health services are well known, and they include inadequate access to care, unaffordability, lack of appropriately trained providers and unproven or ineffective types of treatment being offered.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, there is no universally accepted set of standards for what optimal mental health services should include. But what’s stopping us from writing one?

So, here’s a draft of what a ‘mental health bill of rights’ might look like.

Mental Health Bill of Rights

You have the right to:

1) Affordable, accessible care.

2) Be seen as a person, not an illness.

3) Be treated with respect and dignity.

4) Disclose or not disclose information about your treatment to others.

5) Receive care from appropriately trained, caring professionals.

6) Be fully informed of available and effective treatment options for your condition.

7) Be fully informed of the respective risks and benefits of each treatment option before deciding on a course of treatment.

8) Participate in the development of your treatment plan and have your input, preferences and goals incorporated into the plan.

9) Have family or other support persons involved in your care if you choose and grant permission.

10) Develop a mental health “advance directive” outlining your preferences for care during a mental health crisis, including the option of designating a trusted surrogate to make decisions for you.

Perhaps the time has come for us to collectively agree on a mental health bill of rights and enact it so such ideals can become the standard for mental health care.

Where do we start? Speak up! Talk with policy makers, mental health advocates and health care leaders.

Send the clear message that now, more than ever we need a core set of standards for how people with mental health concerns should be treated.

Let’s make this vision a reality.

Here’s a question: What other standards should be included in a mental health bill of rights? Please leave a comment. Also, please consider subscribing to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!

  • Anne Slease

    These are great. Thank you. I do have one thought, though, David. What about mentally ill young people, perhaps during the initial onset of their illness…do you think their parents should be given access to information even if these people are older than 18?

  • Kitt O’Malley

    Love this!

  • DavidSusman

    Anne, that’s a great question and one that comes up a lot. Legally, parents can’t get medical information about their adult children without the child’s consent or unless the parents are still legal guardians of the adult child. It’s important to have a conversation with both the child and their health care providers about sharing information. Ideally, the adult child would agree to sign a release for the parents to receive health care information, but sometimes this becomes a point of contention if the adult child refuses to do so. Ongoing support and open communication are important to try to work through these issues. Also, remember that parents can always provide information about their child to the health care team even if the child hasn’t agreed for the health care team to disclose any information to the parents.

  • Awesome, working in the healthcare arena as well as being a caregiver makes this that much more if a challenge. .There are so many families who do not have the wherewithal to navigate this process. my advocacy is not only professional but also personal so I try to advocate whenever any wherever possible. .

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