Issues related to mental illnesses, their treatment and recovery are widely discussed problems for both health care professionals and patients’ family members. Many people believe that mental disorder is rare in modern society and migh happen to other people but not to them. However, this idea is blundering. Moreover, mental illnesses are widespread and common. Some people who suffer from mental disorders are unable to make decisions, especially those related to care for their basic needs including food, shelter and medical care. In addition, some of them may pose threat to the society or may even hurt themselves. A company of such people is usually confusing and frightening for family members and friends. Hence, it should be easier for the modern society to commit people involuntarily to mental health treatment as it is a key to the patient’s health, social life and overall well-being.
There is a claim that involuntary treatment of people who suffer from mental health disorders affects their rights and autonomy. Opponents of this kind of treatment speak about side effects that usually range from mild to severe damage of the brain and have devastating and lasting effects. On the other hand, many mentally ill people are unaware of their disorders and refuse to take medications. Additionally, today mental health professional and health care workers have a range of options to choose from to help such people. Authorized involuntary treatment may include hospitalization and forcible medication. Laws and regulation related to these issues vary by state, but as a rule health care professionals are obliged to issue a treatment order through court action. These orders vary in accordance with situation emergency.
There is a number of international and national laws, norms, policies and safeguards related to involuntary treatment of mentally ill people. Involuntary treatment is treated as the one that is against the will of the person concerned. The issue of treating people involuntary is complex and sensitive, especially when it comes to people who suffer from mental disorders. The fact that “stigmatization, discrimination and non-respect for human rights and dignity of mentally ill and disabled people still exist” (European Commission, 2005) is a stimulus to treat such people, even against their will. They may be unable to understand that treatment is the key to healthy life and the way to finding a place in society.
Criteria for involuntary patient admission are set out in Section 8(1) of the Mental Health Act. They include cases when a person refuses to receive treatment, when it is necessary to protect members of society from aggressive and violent actions of mentally ill people, or the ill person is unable to consent to treatment. In addition, involuntary treatment is usually undertaken at the behest of family members. These actions are supported by several health care organizations and associations including the American Psychiatric Association, the Treatment Advocacy Center and others. The main thing that people should know about involuntary treatment that a person can be treated against will only when he/she poses a threat or unable to care about himself/herself. In addition, it is used in unusual circumstances and is done in accordance with all regulations and rules of the country or state.
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In many cases, people with mental illnesses fall into the most excluded social groups, feel lonely and discriminated. These are the key barriers to personal health and life quality. Proper care and continuous treatment helps most mentally ill people return to normal lives. However, some of them remain unable to understand sufficient information and make even minor decisions. They do not realize the urgency of their disorder and the great need in treatment they have.
A person is usually forced to involuntary treatment in case he poses a risk for other people and for the person himself/herself, or there is no other way to provide a person with proper treatment (Voluntary and Involuntary Treatment, 2010). It is necessary to know that only a few people with mental illnesses have to be treated involuntarily. The main reason is that they are dangerous for society. Researches show that involuntary treatment of serious mental disorders is justified (What is the effect of involuntary medication on individuals with serious mental Illnes? – Backgrounder, 2009).
Individuals who suffer from mental disorders should be treated in clinics, hospitals, or in any of the community mental health services. The range of suitable treatment depends on the disorder and the person who suffers from it. One of the main complications of the efforts to make it much easier to commit mentally ill people to involuntary treatment is a set of court rulings that provide patient with mental disorder with an opportunity to refuse treatment and medication because the drugs prescribed have serious and long lasting side effects. But it is necessary to think about the violent actions that a mentally ill person might commit against others including family members or those around.
In the modern society, patients are treated with greater care, respect and support. It should be one of the main reasons of making it easier to treat mental disorder involuntary (Oberg, 2012). Family members of mentally ill people should be aware of all the benefits of involuntary treatment. In many cases, they are outside the mental health system are not always aware of the existing laws concerning involuntary commitment. The practice of involuntary treatment continues to evolve as a balance between human rights and the need to care about those who are unable to address their own safety and life.