People with mental disabilities should make their own life decisions. They should not be made by government or medical professionals. At the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, we work to protect people's autonomy, including their right to vote, participate in community life, and make choices about the care they receive.
Forced mental health care is never appropriate, except when there are immediate and serious safety risks. And even then, listening to consumers and respecting their choices is essential to designing service plans that succeed. For choice to be real, systems must offer a wide array of interventions and supports, and consumers must understand their benefits and risks.
Adequate services available on a voluntary basis that help people maintain homes, jobs, and family and community ties encourage people to seek the assistance they need. Coercive systems with a limited menu of medications, office-based therapy and institutional care often result in poor outcomes and discourage help-seeking. A new trend is self-directed care, which puts some of the resources in the hands of consumers to spend on services they choose. In the Driver's Seat: A Guide to Self-Directed Mental Health Care describes this.