Advocacy,  Mental Health Law

Knowledge is Power – Why Understanding the Law is Vital to your Recovery

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Because staring an abuser in the face and quoting provisions from the National Mental Health Act will make them think twice about infantilizing, gaslighting, or abusing you. Also it’s pretty bad ass.

This week on MSB is all about exploring the power of Mental Health Laws and Legislation and what that means to you in terms of recovery. YAY!

Okay, I know, I know – when I say laws and legislation, I can just imagine your eyes glazing over, it’s not exactly my idea of fun either; but, but it is a really important topic to cover.

Why, you ask?

Because knowing your rights as a mental health patient is absolutely key to a swift and effective recovery.

It’s vital for us as patients not just to understand our rights but also to make it known to caregivers that we understand, even in the midst of a depressive or psychotic episode. This empowers us to be our own best advocate while hospitalized and/or receiving treatment.

One recent study by the organization Mad in America asked nearly 500 respondents who had been hospitalized in the past 8 years if they were offered access to a Patient Advocate – a whopping 79% said they were not. (See the full survey results here).

That’s a really sad statistic because that means most people don’t even know they have a choice or a voice in their treatment from the start – it’s degrading at best and dangerous at worst. And just FYI, this was also my experience when hospitalized. I remember being briefly informed of my rights before being whisked away onto the unit.z I had no idea what a patient advocate was until a long while after my hospitalization. I also didn’t know I’d been coerced and lied to by a doctor and I definitely didn’t know I could have requested to move treatment centers or have an outpatient commitment. Again these are all things I found out later that could have expedited my healing.

I didn’t have the worst experience in the world, but I definitely did get traumatized and I know there are many patients out there who are not as lucky as me as sad as that sounds. Sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and physical restraint are just some of the common incidences to happen to mental health patients while in care.

There’s a variety of reasons why the abuse happens that I won’t get into here because that’s another topic for a different day, but I will say one thing that can keep you from being traumatized is to know your rights going into treatment and beyond.


Because knowing you can request a patient advocate at the hospital can help you navigate your care in a less traumatic way.

Because knowing you can take time off work because of federal protections takes soooo much pressure off you as you heal.

Because knowing there are organizations out there to turn to when something doesn’t seem right with your care can literally save your life.

Because staring an abuser in the face and quoting provisions from the National Mental Health Act will make them think twice about infantilizing, gaslighting, or abusing you. Also it’s pretty bad ass.

And because knowing your rights helps to keep you safe in a sometimes dark and chaotic world.

That’s why I’m focusing on this topic this week – it means so much to me that others don’t go through what I did; that others get the help they need in the kindest, most compassionate way possible. The sad fact is the system is unlikely to change so we need to change ourselves to be more aware. And knowing your rights is a big first step.

So follow along this week to learn more about how knowledge is power!

Much Love,


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Mad as Hell Mental Health Rights Advocate. Likes margaritas, long walks on the beach, and JUSTICE.



    Great post. You’re right too; on admission, we were supposed to let patients know about Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) but this didn’t often happen. I always informed patients about this valuable service and documented it in their notes. In my humble opinion, “if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen.”

    • mmorran1

      Thanks for commenting, I really do appreciate your perspective! I think sometimes the small things (in any job) are forgotten but we don’t realize how big of impact they have on others. Knowing about PALS would have maybe made me feel better and not so alone.

      On the other hand, I actually got to go back speak to the staff of the facility in a rare opportunity and I found out from them it was a lot of it was short staffing, a lack of resources, and an overabundance of patients making them burned out. I feel for the staff as I think the system doesn’t allow them to be great. But I’m glad there are people like you out there!

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