Human Rights
On the Road

Essays from a Career
Advocating for Human Rights in Mental Health
By Lee Spiller

Psychiatry and the Politics of Calling People Names

Recently, Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee has been in the press after calling for President Trump to be placed under a 72-hour mental health detention. If you are a Trump supporter, you may not be off the hook either. Dr. Lee suggested that Trump supporters may have a kind of “shared psychosis.”

This is not the first time Dr. Lee has questioned Trump’s mental status. She and a group of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals did an “assessment” of President Trump after he was elected. Based on this, she wrote the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.

While a sitting President certainly has the resources to protect himself, what about you?

In expressing her opinion, Lee appears to have relied on Twitter and other social media posts as well as press accounts. This would be laughable except for one thing:

Texas currently allows similar monitoring of our public school children; and is preparing to use regional threat assessment teams, including psychiatrists to remotely assess whether certain individuals are a potential danger. According to the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, such teams are to also include local officials who have expertise in getting such individuals committed.

These “multi-disciplinary threat assessment teams” are to be co-located with our state’s Fusion Centers.

Our fusion centers collect digital data, plus documents called “Suspicious Activity Reports.” Because these centers were designed to predict or counter various types of terrorist threats, there appears to be some provision for the sharing a certain amount of protected health information as well.

These centers, and how they are used, are clouded in secrecy. Even seasoned reporters have had problems getting data on how they work.

Lack of public scrutiny poses serious questions about accountability. Especially when mental health detention and commitment records are not public.

While examining records at a Sheriff’s Department, we were reminded of this. Criminal arrests were public and contained names of alleged perpetrators, victims and witnesses.

Mental health transports contained a cause number and the fact that it was a “psychological evaluation.” No other information was available.

Mental health detention represents exactly the kind of “secret jail” Alexander Hamilton warned about in Federalist 84. Allowing any detention without public scrutiny could certainly be viewed as a dangerous engine of tyrannical government.

Dr. Lee points out that as a co-worker, Speaker Pelosi has the right to have Trump submit to an involuntary mental health examination.

In Texas, police can rely on the observations of any credible person in order to formulate the opinion that an individual meets the criteria for mental health detention.

Texans are regularly institutionalized because someone, a doctor, a co-worker, a family member, a neighbor, calls them “mentally ill” and “dangerous.”

This is a time for candid discussion with your elected officials.

At least three Texas shootings might have been prevented through vigorous prosecution and enforcing laws already on the books.

We need more due process protection and accountability in our mental health laws.

We do NOT need teams of unseen psychiatrists calling people names.