As am currently in attendance of Yale’s annual RebLaw conference, legality has been on my mind. In particular, I have been thinking about how different identities intersect with psychological disorders or trauma to dictate whether the individual is able or willing to participate in court.
For example, how do identities help determine whether someone is willing to file a lawsuit against a sexual assailant? Is a lawsuit always the best option or AN option for all individuals? A sex worker filing a law suit of this sort would surely suffer more trauma and humiliation than anything due to the way sex work is criminalized and stigmatized within this society. A black woman, being part of a demographic that is disproportionately criminalized and traumatized by police brutality, would have a markedly different perception of the limitations of the legal system in such a case, than a white, middle class woman.
In terms of mental health, these different experiences also have an impact and interrelationship with the psychological after effects of sexual violence. For example, a transgendered individual, whose body is politically and socially policed on a daily basis, would have a different psychological response to sexual violence than say a cis-man. In turn, this level or type of psychological trauma would have an effect on their capacity of stand in front of a courtroom to gain justice.
The question is then, is the legal path for mental health justice (or any type of social justice) always the right way?
To begin this blog, I would like to briefly describe what I mean by intersectional mental health justice and why it is important.
Mental health justice, to me, is multilayered. It means not only having the legal means of combating mentalism (also known as mental health ableism), but also de-stigmatizing mental health. So for example, mental health justice involves creating policy where insurance companies would be mandated to cover therapy sessions. At the same time, mental health justice involves looking at the mentalism within our language. By saying things such as “she’s so bi-polar” how do we re-enforce, normalize and diminish the oppression that people with bi-polar disorder on a daily basis?
Granted, this is not a new topic in any way. There are many organizations that are working for either or both side of combating mentalism. Yet the purpose of my blog is to bring in the intersectional analysis. Intersectionality, coined in the 1980s by Dr. Crenshaw, is essentially a framework that allows us to account for different identities. That is, intersectionality is a framework that looks at how the intersections between different identities (such as being black and being a woman) dictate the social position, and opportunities and experiences that individuals have. In context of mental health, how do these identities inform how we combat mentalism? How do we approach helping working class people with depression versus middle class Latinos?
To be successful, the fight against mentalism needs to acknowledge intersectionality. And that is what this blog is truly about.