Do Your Part for Mental Health

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a great time to remind ourselves about what we can do to advance awareness, acceptance, and inclusion of people with mental health conditions.

People with mental health conditions are just like everyone else. They have hopes and dreams, and they experience the ups and downs that life brings. They want to live in the community, spend time with friends, have a job, and make their own decisions. They want what most people want.

They also have the same rights as everyone else including the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to be free from discrimination. If a person is receiving mental health services, they have specific rights, whether they live in the community or an institution.

Protecting Rights

Protecting the rights of people with mental illness is a big part of what we do at Disability Rights Texas (DRTx). That’s because historically, people with mental health issues were often confined against their will and subjected to unnecessary, inhumane treatments. Those who were not institutionalized still faced an uphill battle against discrimination and stigmatization.

As society’s understanding has grown, some attitudes and policies have shifted. Laws were passed and programs were established to ensure the rights of people with mental health conditions were protected, including the establishment of agencies like ours.

Knowing the Facts

But as you know, we still have a long way to go. For example, the media, public officials, and others are quick to link mass shootings to mental illness. Yet according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

Most people with mental health conditions are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Only 3%–5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of a violent crime than the general population.

It Could Be You

Today, an estimated one in five people will experience a mental health issue this year, and half of all people will experience one in their lifetime. Anyone can have a mental health condition, regardless of their background or lifestyle. Even if you don’t experience a mental health issue, odds are someone you know will.

So let’s stop the stigma by changing the way we think and talk about mental illness. Because tomorrow you could find it’s your loved one – or you – who you are talking about.

Next Steps

Get Involved: We are now accepting applications from those interested in becoming a member of our Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Council. The PAIMI Council includes Texans with mental illness, family members and professionals who advise DRTx on policies and priorities specific to our advocacy for those with mental health issues. The application deadline is July 31, 2023.

Know Your Rights: To make sure you know your rights and the rights of others, see the self-advocacy resources on the DRTx website and also the Rights of All Persons Receiving Mental Health Services in the Texas Administrative Code. If you think your rights have been violated, you can apply to get help from DRTx.