I'm the author of Your Consent Is Not Required: The Rise in Psychiatric Detentions, Forced Treatment and Abusive Guardianships. My book examines how mental health laws are used to police streets, manage schools, nursing homes, and other institutio...
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I’m Rob Wipond, a freelance investigative journalist who’s been reporting on involuntary commitment and civil rights in mental health care in the U.S. and Canada for two decades. My work has garnered magazine and journalism awards for writing in law, science and public issues—and here’s proof it’s me. I recently published Your Consent Is Not Required: The Rise in Psychiatric Detentions, Forced Treatment, and Abusive Guardianships. In it, I recount people's stories of being detained and forcibly treated, and also examine the laws, institutions, science, economics, and cultural politics of involuntary commitment. A lot of what I found challenges common beliefs:
- The numbers of people detained under mental health laws have been rising dramatically for decades—they are now double, triple and more the per-capita rates in comparable Western nations.
- Despite the closure of large asylums, smaller institutions and care homes have multiplied, and there are now actually more psychiatric beds per capita than existed in the 1950s. In California and New York, for example, there are 2x to 3x as many beds today. See details in this article.
- Mental health laws have broadened far beyond how we ordinarily understand “danger to self or others.” And forced hospitalizations and forced tranquilization are increasingly used, for example, to help manage schools, public housing, and nursing homes, quell family conflicts, police streets and shelters, control prisons, restrict the activities of pregnant women, and “resolve” workplace conflicts.
- Pro-force advocates often claim that only people who "don't know that they're ill" get forced into treatment, but I found that many people seeking voluntary mental health help get labeled as "lacking insight" the moment they decline a particular drug prescribed for them. Some states, like Texas, have streamlined this process into law for quickly turning voluntary into involuntary patients.
- In 2020, I was the first (and so far the only) journalist to get the internal data showing how many people were getting their calls traced and forced into psychiatric hospitals after calling the "confidential" National Suicide Prevention Hotline, now 9-8-8. My latest update on the tens of thousands of callers annually getting unexpected, unwanted visits from police in the first year of 9-8-8 is here.
- Mass-scale, fraudulent detentions of people in psychiatric hospitals for profit is a growing problem targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Here's one $117 million settlement involving the biggest psychiatric hospital chain in America for locking up people illegally.
- I also found cases of protesters and whistleblowers getting forced into psychiatric evaluations and locked up in psychiatric hospitals as a way to harass and discredit them. One famous case is that of NYPD whistleblower Adrian Schoolcraft.
- There's virtually no scientific evidence that supports forced psychiatric treatment as a way of helping people--and lots to suggest it can be very harmful.
That's a brief intro -- please feel welcome to ASK ME ANYTHING!
PS You can get the hardcover of Your Consent Is Not Required through your local bookstore or wherever books are sold, or get 30% off by using the code "RIGHTS" at the BenBella Books website. Kindle, ePub and Audiobook versions are also available.