Discrimination against individuals with mental illness can occur in various capacities in both their personal and professional lives.
To ensure you are protecting yourself against discrimination, you should determine what your rights are in each situation. Like medical treatment, taking care of your mental health is important to your wellbeing, and understanding your rights can help ensure that you receive adequate and fair treatment. Whether you need to receive medical treatment, or you are seeking housing and employment opportunities, your rights should not be violated during these times. Under United States law, you are entitled to informed consent and confidentiality in all aspects of your life as an individual with mental illness.
Developing an understanding of your basic rights will allow you to make informed decisions regarding pivotal life circumstances. Preparation and prevention is essential to avoid issues regarding your rights as an individual with mental illness, regardless of the situation you find yourself in. This article will detail the rights you have at work and at home, so you can identify discrepancies, should they occur at any point.
According to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), mental health conditions are considered disabilities in the eyes of the law. Due to this development, you are entitled to specific rights in the workplace included within the ADA. You are entitled to freedom from discrimination, as well as freedom from discriminatory comments or harassment as a reaction toward your mental illness. The legality of the Americans With Disabilities Act specifies:
If you feel as though these rights have been breached, you may need to speak with a human resources representative for your employer or to a member of the school faculty who can assist you with your complaint. You have the right to be treated in the same manner as other employees and students who do not suffer from mental illnesses and will need to hold establishments responsible when they display discriminatory tendencies.
As an individual with mental illness, you have the right to informed consent as a means of making your own decisions regarding your medical treatments. Under the informed consent law, you are permitted to ask questions pertaining to your treatment options to ensure you understand the risks and benefits of each selection. You will want to be informed about the benefits and disadvantages of potential mental health treatments before choosing one form of care over another. In addition to your right to ask questions, you also have the right to decline treatment if you deem the care option undesirable. You do not have to consent to treatment you do not feel comfortable receiving. You also have the right to switch treatment providers if you feel as though your existing insurance plan does not encompass the care you need to treat your mental illness properly.
If your mental illness is severe and renders you incapable of making informed decisions, you can appoint a friend or relative to make these decisions on your behalf. In this scenario, you are using your informed consent right to permit a trusted individual to make healthcare decisions for you if you are in an unfit state to choose on your own accord. You do not have to appoint an individual to make decisions on your behalf unless your mental illness impairs your judgement. A court can appoint a guardian if you have impaired judgement. You may be subject to hospitalization against your will, but this is typically for extreme cases. Even in these types of cases, you have the right to get legal help and petition for a hearing. A court may order a treatment for your condition, although this is a ruling determined after a hearing.
You are entitled to confidentiality in a medical setting once you begin to receive treatment for a mental illness or condition. Your friends, family members or guardians cannot contact your healthcare provider to gain access to your medical records or current treatment details, unless you authorize the release of information to specific individuals. Additionally, employers and school administration boards are also barred from requesting a copy of your medical record without your permission. If you choose authorize a spouse or loved one’s access to your medical records or mental health treatment details for any reason, you must provide authorization in advance.
When you receive treatment for a mental illness, you are consenting to a confidentiality agreement between you and your doctor or therapist. This means your medical provider is not allowed to divulge information you share with him or her during sessions. Additionally, your medical provider has a legal obligation to protect your records from anyone who calls to ask for the information who has not previously gained authorization to do so. If your medical records are needed in a legal matter, a judge will need to issue a subpoena to obtain your health records from your healthcare provider.