Seven Reasons Why the US’s New Mental Health Law Is Dangerous

(Photo: Agencia de Noticias ANDES; Edited: LW / TO)

This week, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act, touting the bipartisan mental health measure as “bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the greatest health-care challenges of our time.” However, the reality behind this legislation is not quite what it appears to be.

The 21st Century Cures Act will increase the ease with which individuals can be involuntarily hospitalized in a locked ward, increase funding for institutionalized settings, and demand that states implement forced outpatient treatment in order to receive funding. Many media reports are suggesting that it will fix a broken mental health system, incorporate patient voices into clinical processes, decrease mass violence and modernize clinical trials. But will it really? Here are seven reasons why Obama’s signing of the 21st Century Cures Act is less than grounds for celebration.

1. Sandy Hook and other tragedies will not be avoided by the measures contained in this bill. There is no debate at this point about the fact that individuals who are diagnosed with serious mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. Further, they are rarely violent in the first place.

Yet, the “reform” this bill seeks was formulated largely in reaction to the tragic Sandy Hook killings in 2012. It is a product of the assumption that “mental illness” is responsible for mass acts of violence, and that the answer is more psychiatric treatment, often treatment of a coercive and restrictive nature.

However, the story that doesn’t get told is that the perpetrator of that mass shooting was in psychiatric treatment and on numerous psychiatric drugs at the time of the killing. In fact, almost half of all of those who’ve committed homicide were on their prescribed psychiatric drugs at the time of…

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