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Mental Health Rights Are Civil Rights

Civil rights are defined by the Oxford dictionary as “the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.” These rights are protected by both the 13th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution and several important laws, including the:

  • Age Discrimination Act of 1975,
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA),
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964,
  • Fair Housing Act (FHA),
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1972 (Section 504),
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965,
  • And precedents set by federal court decisions, such as Brown v. Board of Education

While civil rights are guaranteed and safeguarded by law, they are violated all too frequently. Further, people with mental illnesses or other cognitive disabilities are some of the most abused and discriminated against in the nation. Nevertheless, people with mental health conditions are people and they are entitled to equal opportunities under the ADA.

Rights at Risk

According to Mental Health America (MHA), half of all Americans will experience a diagnosable mental health condition in their lifetime. With such a significant portion of the population affected, it is shocking that having a mental illness can interfere with someone’s rights to:

  • Liberty and autonomy
  • Protection from seclusion and restraint
  • Community inclusion
  • Access to services
  • Privacy

Many of the rights outlined above are violated during interactions with law enforcement and employers. When this is the case, our attorneys at May, Rammell & Wells can help!

Liberty and Autonomy

If you or someone you know has a mental illness and is arrested for a crime, a working knowledge of the law is extremely important. Instead of facing jail time, you or your loved one may be able to pursue voluntary treatment. Having this option protects the liberty and autonomy of people who struggle with their mental health.

Seclusion and Restraint

All too often, people with mental illnesses are misunderstood and subjected to police abuse. Officers tend to use excessive force or be physically or emotionally abusive towards the mentally ill, especially when someone is having a breakdown or behaving in a way that frightens first responders. Estimates referenced by MHA reveal about half of the people killed by police officers were afflicted by mental illness.

Community Inclusion and Access to Services

When dealing with employers and seeking housing and accommodations, many people with mental illnesses struggle to enjoy the equality they are entitled to by law. Sometimes, these people are discriminated against in the hiring process and other times they face harassment or wrongful termination.

Being a member of their community and society at large is often difficult for people living with mental health conditions. Under the ADA, the organizations and institutions that make up these communities are required to make accommodations for people with disabilities of all kinds.

Protecting the Vulnerable

Regardless of whether or not you have a mental illness, you are entitled to civil rights and can take action against any person or institution that violates them.

With 70+ years of collective experience, May, Rammell & Wells gives a voice to those who have been abused or discriminated against.

If your civil rights have been violated, find out what we can do for you by calling us at (208) 623-8021 or scheduling a consultation at our Pocatello office.

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