Sunday, December 08, 2013

Andrew Solomon on Shameful Profiling of the Mentally Ill by Immigration Officials

In Today's New York Times, Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon and Far From the Tree, has an opinion piece on "Shameful Profiling of the Mentally Ill."  It's on a topic that ClinkShrink has been very interested in: the disturbing issues that arise when the immigration department  ("ICE") decides the fate of psychiatric patients. 

I'll leave you to read Mr. Solomon's article about tourists who were not allowed to enter the United States because they had been hospitalized for depression in Canada.  One woman was simply traveling through the US to get to her cruise ship, stringed lights in hand to make her cabin festive.

Solomon concludes:

Stigmatizing the condition is bad; stigmatizing the treatment is even worse. People who have received help are much more likely to be in control of their demons than those who have not. Yet this incident will serve only to warn people against seeking treatment for mental illness. If we scare others off therapy lest it later be held against them, we are encouraging denial, medical noncompliance and subterfuge, thereby building not a healthier society but a sicker one.

Well put.  And have I mentioned that I loved Far From the Tree?  It's a wonderful look at issues of identity in those who are  different, but more than that, Solomon exposes the complexity of calling these conditions "disorders" requiring treatment, versus viewing them as a natural part of human diversity to be accepted rather than fixed.  The topics addressed include mental health disorders, but it's so much broader as he looks at topics including deafness, dwarfism, musical genius, autism, schizophrenia, transgender children, and children conceived in rape, to name just a few.  Ten years of writing, three hundred interviews, and well worth the read.