Mental health professionals in Seattle, Bellevue, Seattle, and Bellevue will be joining together on a “mental health experts’ day” to help educate the public about mental health issues, in addition to raising awareness about a new federal law known as the “bias crime” rule.
On Monday, the Washington state legislature will vote on the rule, which seeks to make it easier for local governments to prosecute people who post false or misleading information about mental illness.
Under the rule , which was written to combat online misinformation, the state will have the authority to investigate and prosecute “any person who knowingly publishes, distributes, disseminates, or causes the publication of false, misleading, defamatory, libelous, or otherwise objectionable information or data regarding a mental health condition,” according to the rule’s language.
“This is a huge issue, especially in our times of misinformation and hate,” said Dr. Elizabeth A. Brown, director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress and Trauma at Columbia University.
“And when we talk about the mental health system, the system that has been most impacted by the stigma surrounding mental illness, the mental healthcare system is at the forefront.
It’s at the very top of the list.””
We’re all struggling, and we all need help, and when you’re in a place where you feel like you’re not valued, where you’re isolated, when you don’t have any support, you feel as if there’s something wrong with you, then you don,t know how to make a difference,” she said.
The Mental Health Information Accessibility Act of 2015, introduced in June, seeks to improve access to mental health services for people who are experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, or mental health problems.
According to a press release issued by the state on Monday, “The Mental Care Accessibility Task Force will meet from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday, May 2, at the University of Washington Health System to discuss how the mental care system can better meet the needs of people living with mental health conditions and to ensure that we are providing the best service to those living with these conditions.”
While the task force has not yet announced its recommendations, Brown said it would be “very helpful to have an official public statement, because if we can have people from the community come together to talk about it, it can really change things.”
“It will definitely make it harder for people to think they’re alone, but it’s also going to make us more open, and that’s really important,” she added.
“We need to make sure that people who need help can be seen as we are.”
Brown said that while the taskforce will focus on mental health professionals, it will also look at “health care workers and the role of private sector providers.”
She said the task group will also examine whether there are any gaps in mental health service providers’ access to patients.
“I think that’s a very important thing to think about, because you know, if we’re not doing anything, we’re going to be left with people who have no access to care and that needs to change,” she explained.
“There is an enormous gap in access to treatment, and it needs to be addressed in the next two years.
And I think we’re making progress on that.”
Dr. Stephanie D. Glynn, a psychiatrist who has worked in the mental wellness field for more than 30 years, said the public needs to take a “wait and see” approach.
“The whole point of this bill is to give the state more tools to enforce this,” she told Mashable.
“I don’t think we should just let it be an experiment, and I don’t know how you get that without some sort of regulation.”
Glynn, who also serves on the state’s mental health commission, also said that, unlike other states, Washington has a “burden of proof” when it comes to people facing charges under the rule.
“It’s a lot more complicated than we’ve been used to,” she warned.
“People need to understand that if they’re arrested for anything, they’re going on a public trial.
You’re not just guilty by association, and if you’re convicted, you’re going into jail.
So, I think the burden is really on the person to show that they’re a good person, that they’ve done the right thing.”
Brown and Glynn both said they are confident that Washington will pass the mental illness information accessibility act.
“We believe in this legislation,” Brown said.
“This is what we’ve fought for all along.”
Brown added that while there are no guarantees in Washington that the mental aid and treatment system will be able to provide the service people need, the public deserves better.
“People deserve better.
We’re tired of being treated like second-class citizens,” she concluded.