Changing your Record
This article, by David Healy, describes the harms of psychiatric diagnosis. I have been saying the exact same thing for years in regards to your records being like a criminal record, except if Healy (he is a doctor) says it, more people will take the issue seriously than if a two-bit blogger like me says it.
Do you really have to get some hotshot to write to the government to get your diagnosis removed? Do you need a lawyer? Where will you find these influential people?
Getting your diagnosis off your record, first of all, won’t do you a bit of good unless you walk the walk and act undiagnosed.
I know a few people who want to rid themselves of their diagnoses but continue to act in a way that others will see them as nuts. There is a difference between making mistakes now and then and refusing to take responsibility for one’s actions.
Secondly, what good will going through legal hoops to get a diagnosis taken off if where you live you are seen as nuts? Society will not change so easily. What are going to do? Walk around town and tell everyone, “I’m not schiz anymore”?
Let me tell you what it is like to be seen as mentally ill in your community, and maybe that will clarify….
Your neighbors have seen the cops at your door countless times. They have seen you hauled off on a stretcher. They have seen you at the pharmacy line twice a week for years, seen you leave with large bags of pills, or saw the local pharmacy deliver to your door. You live in public housing for the elderly but you are clearly not elderly and not visibly handicapped. You disappeared now and then for a week or two at a time and obviously weren’t on vacation. Eventually someone figured it out. At your job, you have taken unexplained “leaves of absence” and eventually you were “called in” and then never came back. You appear sick. You twitch or pace. You gained weight rapidly with no explanation. Your skin is red with drug-induced sunburn. You seem to have an awful lot of unexplained medical problems.
You don’t seem to have a job as far as anyone knows. Where is the money coming from? Why do you leave the house from 9-3 and hang out with other people who pace and twitch? Why do shake? What is that “group” you keep talking about?
People will not find out about your learned dependency until they get to know you, but that one is also quite telling.
Ten years like that and people around you will know. This is more true in a small town than it is in the larger urban areas, but it can happen anywhere.
Diagnosis goes beyond what is written in your records. Reputation very well might influence your fate far more than a medical record.
It is very difficult to stop the habits we learned while we were patients, but these things must be done to end that reputation. Many of us have relocated, which solves a lot of the problem. Still others aren’t in that position. Many of us have been forced to lie about our past or fudge our resumes.
As one commenter stated (if you read the comments at Healy’s blog, but here I will rephrase) the longer you continue to act responsible, the further away you move from your ugly past, the better off you are.
For me, the diagnosis is sitting there back where I used to live, but no one I come into contact with currently accesses it due to HIPAA protection. I pass a criminal background check. I have had these done numerous times and there’s never been any question.
People ask me about “lists” they may be on. You can actually check to see if you are on the Brady Bill list. The list contains people with certain criminal histories, but does not include all mental patients, only some that were court-ordered under certain sections. Even if you were hospitalized or on drugs you may not be on it. This list is only used in regards to firearms (and who the heck wants one, anyway?).
There is a healthcare worker list. If you committed a healthcare-related crime, like stealing drugs while you worked at a nursing home, or beating a patient, you might be on that list. (Don’t you think a lot of the “staff” and docs we met in the System should be on that list?) I am not on it as I had to be screened for a volunteer job. I passed.
People have also worried about insurance companies. Many of us can remedy this by switching insurance if we are able, but some companies are demanding that you pass your records from the old insurer to them. Not all insurers insist on this. I think the cost to track down records may be prohibitive, and this is another little way HIPAA still protects us. If they don’t know it’s there, why would they go looking for it?
If you don’t pay taxes you don’t have to state you are insured on your tax form. Also, from what I have read, the government doesn’t demand “proof” of insurance (this being too expensive to track everyone down). You can also pay and “uninsured” penalty, which I suspect in some instances very well may be cheaper than paying out of pocket for some “plan.”
You may be insured or on Medicaid or Medicare. Since when do you have to use your insurance? There’s no law that says everyone has to have a PCP, nor any law that says you have to be “checked” by a physician. Many jobs require it, though.
Do you know how easy it is to pass the depression screening? Do you know how easy it is to not check the checkboxes that say, “Mental illness” on a medical form?
Still, I cannot believe how naive people are. They keep checking those boxes. People don’t realize this is voluntary. Don’t check the box! Don’t mention past drugs you have been on and don’t say you ever went to a mental health clinic.
Somehow, all this is so much easier than going through legal hoops, thus exposing yourself further. But…that is my experience.