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Recovery Model: Mental Health Recovery Model Applied to Severely Mentally Ill; JH Rick Massimino MD

Right vs Privilege

What is the difference between a Right and a Privilege and how does this thinking influence life success?

How often do you hear a seriously mentally ill person exclaim “that’s my right.” This faulty thinking is the product of years inside of the Public Mental Health Care System where patients are indoctrinated about their rights and learn to demand them without thought.    In simplest terms, a Right is something that cannot be taken away from you.  A Privilege is something that must be earned.

As we dig deeper into this simple distinction, we see that a full understanding of real life meaning and significance can be elusive and often results in dysfunctional thinking and behavior. Dysfunctional thinking and behavior is a precursor to dangerous situations. The truth is that all rights can be taken away for cause. Your rights are always limited by the impact or interference caused to another person’s rights. Do you have the right to speak if your mouth is next to my ear and you have invaded my personal space? Do you have the right to spend your money anyway you want if you are broke within a week of getting your money? Sometimes the answer to the above questions is NO, you don’t have the right. Sometimes the answer to the above questions is Yes, but very serious consequences will result if you exercise your right. If a serious consequence results from exercising a Right, is it really a Right that cannot be taken away from you?
 
 
The seriously mentally ill are taught to think in ways that are illogical and ineffective in real life settings and we wonder why they cannot succeed. The seriously mentally ill deserve to be given the truth and asked to be accountable for their behavior consistent with their respective abilities. When abilities demonstrate competence for independence, then independence should be encouraged. When abilities demonstrate a lack of competence for independence, then a supported and protected environment should be demanded. Are we protecting patient’s rights when we allow psychosis, homelessness, danger, and/or death to be experienced? All people of common sense would agree that this situation is not a protection of any right. Only in the world of mental health can faulty thinking of this magnitude be found. Since the preponderance of care to the seriously mentally ill has become the responsibility of the Public Mental Health Care System, the faulty thinking rests inside of them. In other words, our tax supported public mental health care system is the faulty thinking.   

A privilege which must be earned can therefore be lost. You can drive if you pass the test. You lose the privilege to drive if you fail to follow the rules. Many of the freedoms that all citizens enjoy are really privileges which result from personal responsibility and accountability. The seriously mentally ill do not in general understand this reality and when denied access or use of something they want, they get mad or demanding. The John Henry Model recognizes the critical necessity for the seriously mentally ill to learn to accept consequences, accept NO without an angry reaction and to know the difference between a right and a privilege.

This teaching page is weaved into nearly every other teaching page as its value and significance never diminishes and its relevance is found daily in patient behavior and thinking. The John Henry Model does not dismiss the importance of patient’s Right’s, but, the overcorrection from the era of institutionalization has created a reality perhaps far worse. The resultant era of criminalization with the heartless, self protective, and disingenuous attitude displayed by the Public Mental Health Care System to protect a Right which allows human decay and death, is reprehensible.