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In every state in the U.S. and in every province in Canada, as well as in countries around the world, there are laws that pertain to involuntary commitment. These laws state that if an individual is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others, they can be hospitalized against their will for a set period of time (usually three to five days). It’s an incorrect belief that in order to be involuntarily committed, the individual has to have a diagnosed mental illness.
The determining factor isn’t whether the individual has a mental illness; the determining factor is the degree of danger the individual poses to himself or herself and to others. It’s up to the medical profession to determine if this danger is the result of a mental health issue, diagnosed or undiagnosed at the time of admission to the hospital.
A person cannot be involuntarily committed because they hold political views or social opinions that are not mainstream. A person cannot be involuntarily committed because they have had a number of run-ins with the law or have been found guilty of one or more crimes. A person cannot be involuntarily committed because they have a diagnosis for a disability, disorder or disease that is found in the DSM-IV-TR (or any of the previous editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
According to mental health professionals, involuntary commitment is used as a last resort and is limited to instances where persons pose a serious risk of physical harm to themselves or others, and where less restrictive alternatives to addressing the imminent danger cannot respond adequately to the risk. The reason for this is because the individual’s civil rights and liberties weigh heavily in making a decision to involuntarily commit an individual for any period of time.
It is understood that all persons, whether there is a mental health issue at play, are competent most of the time. Yes, even if the person has a very serious mental illness, the premise is that all people are competent most of the time.
It is understood that involuntary commitment cannot be imposed on individuals on the basis that they destroyed property or were a risk of non-physical harm to themselves or to others.
On August 3, a comment was posted to the MIC blog article, “Asperger Syndrome and James Holmes.” The comment included a number of inaccurate stereotypes about individuals with Asperger Syndrome. In particular, the visitor posting under the pseudonym psychology101 stated:
“They can also show great anger and rage.”
Is it a stereotype or a fact that individuals with a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome have a greater amount of anger and rage than those who do not have a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome?
According to the criteria used for diagnosis Asperger Syndrome, whether the medical practitioner relies on the DSM or the ICD (International Classification of Diseases endorsed by the World Health Organizations in May 1990 ), there is no mention of “great anger and rage” as part of the symptomology of Asperger Syndrome. In fact, the ICD-10 states specifically that Asperger Syndrome is a “combination of a lack of any clinically significant general delay in language or cognitive development plus, as with autism, the presence of qualitative deficiencies in reciprocal social interaction and restricted, repetitive, stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests, and activities. There may or may not be problems in communication similar to those associated with autism, but significant language retardation would rule out the diagnosis.”
In researching this blog article, I came across an entry by Melanie Yergeau wrote in December 2011 and posted to her personal blog site. Melanie Yergeau is the ASAN Board Chair.
She is also the President of the ASAN Ohio State chapter.
Last December, Melanie Yergeau wrote about being involuntarily committed. Her entry began with this introduction to the situation:
Sarah wrote in part: “It sounds to me like none of the professionals have a freaking clue about what’s going on.”
Laurentius Rex wrote: “My autism tells them to go [word removed by MIC] themselves if they have either the agility or the endowment.”
ASAN and AWN member, Lydia Brown (who is an intern at ASAN’s national office as well as the Volunteer: Information Resources for the Autism Women’s Network) wrote in part: “By the way, what you describe is a perfect and horrifying and terrifying example of de-legitimization. Nothing you say matters anymore, because you can’t possibly understand or communicate, because, well, that’s just autism.”
The tone of the entry was that autism was the reason Melanie Yergeau was involuntarily committed to the “psych ward at the university hospital” by her “ex-doctors” and “former therapist.”
Having autism is not a valid or recognized reason for involuntarily committed. Doing so would place Melanie Yergeau’s “ex-doctors” and “former therapist” in danger of having their accreditation as medical, licensed practitioners suspended or revoked. It would also place these “ex-doctors” and “former therapist” — and anyone who involved themselves with assisting them in the involuntary commitment — in danger of lawsuits as well as having formal charges laid against them by the authorities.
For that reason alone, those who have the power to have someone involuntarily committed for observation are loathe to exercise that power except in extreme circumstances.
And what are those extreme circumstances, again, where someone in power would risk having another individual involuntarily committed? It would have to be a case where the individual to be involuntarily committed posed a serious risk of physical harm to himself/herself or others, and where less restrictive alternatives to addressing the imminent danger could not respond adequately to the risk.
When someone diagnosed or self-diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome claims that his or her autism is the reason he or she was involuntarily committed to a “psych ward” is it any wonder that people like psychology101 have the skewed perception of Asperger Syndrome that they do?
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