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No Disability Profiling: An Update from the NCIL Mental Health Task Force

Stop Psychiatric Profiling Logo

Activists for the civil rights of users and survivors of psychiatry use this symbol for their campaign. The “Stop Psychiatric Profiling” text is superimposed over a black triangle like that used in Nazi camps to symbolize people with mental illness or other disability and others deemed “asocial.”

On December 14, 2012, a young man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut with an assault rifle and ended 20 young lives and those of six of their educators. This single incident has renewed discussion about gun violence in a way that thousands of gun-related homicides each year have not.

Unfortunately, this discussion is sometimes dangerous for people with disabilities. The NRA and others repeatedly talk about “good people” with guns protecting us from “bad people” with guns. All too often, they lump people with mental illness in with criminals when they get more specific about “bad people.” After the Newtown shooting, they even speculated about the shooter’s autism as contributing to the disastrous incident. Others conflating disability and dangerousness to justify discrimination include the Obama Administration and policy-makers in New York State.

Fortunately, NCIL and the National Disability Leadership Alliance have stood tall. They have issued statements recognizing that policies disadvantaging people based on diagnosis of mental illness or disability are not justified. 

We recognize that there is ample evidence that people with disabilities are commonly victims of violence. We also recognize that there is evidence about people with disabilities causing violence – they don’t. In fact, even with types of disability commonly thought to make people “dangerous” such as schizophrenia, there is weak evidence at best to support the common belief.

In addition to December’s Newtown incident, there were two mass shootings in Wisconsin last year. A racist killed numerous worshipers at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek. A few weeks later, an abusive husband gunned down his wife and others at a hair salon in Brookfield. These are typical of many gun deaths in our country. As Wisconsin Rep. Sandy Pasch noted in response, racism and domestic abuse “are not mental health issues.”

The NCIL Mental Health Civil Rights Task force has been supporting the work of advocates in and out of our community. We join with users and survivors of psychiatry to urge policy-makers to Stop Psychiatric Profiling. We also recognize and support the work to stop profiling that affects people with autism and other disabilities.

Policies that have drawn fire for psychiatric profiling include New York’s recent “NY SAFE Act.” Activists criticize lawmakers for expanding state and federal criminal databases of people labeled as mentally ill (unconnected to any actual crime or act of violence) and for expanding outpatient commitment (forced drugging of people living in the community).

Similarly, activists have been concerned about the White House “Now is the Time” plan. The plan encourages states to report more people because of mental illness labels to the national instant background check database, including those for whom there is no current finding of dangerousness. Some states have balked at making these reports. The plan also encourages more health care providers to report their patients to authorities despite a lack of evidence that doing so would prevent violence.

Members of the NCIL Mental Health Task Force will conduct a session at the NCIL Conference this summer to open the dialogue within our community about the danger to our rights and how we can respond. We must remember policies that discriminate based on disability affect all of us. We must hold true to the principle Nothing About Us Without Us.

Comments

  1. James P. Arlotta says:

    Refer to a court case started in federal district court, the Western District of New York. Case #1:16-cv-631 Arlotta v Diocese of Buffalo et al., that’s now in the federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Docket #17-2945.
    Read the papers and tell me this…WHY DOES THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND A LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENT WHO LT. ILLEGALLY QUESTIONED, WITHOUT MIRANDIZIATION AND VERBALLY READING THE RIGHTS. GET AWAY WITH VIOLATING THE APPELLANT’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, AND THE PUBLICS RIGHT TO NON VIOLATIONS OF THE ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE AND SEPERATIONS OF CHURCH AND STATE!

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