Today, in our second Mental Health Awareness Month (“MHAM”) blog, we feature a story shown on April 23, 2018, on NBC Nightly News. The story features the Binion family who lost their son Jordan (“Jordy”) to suicide shortly after Jordy declined further treatment for his mental health issues. Unfortunately, even when families desperately want their child to receive treatment, some state’s laws give deference to a minor’s “right to choose.”
Beyond the Binion’s tragic loss, the NBC new piece shared a few very alarming statistics:
- 40% of states within the U.S. have laws in place that allow minors as young as 12 to affirm or decline consent for mental health treatment;
- There are only 8,300 child and adolescent psychiatrists in the U.S.; and
- There are at least 17 million kids in need of seeing a psychiatrist.
Of course, the laws were put in place because there are also some advantages that come with allowing minors to decide whether or not they need to receive treatment. One advantage is that allowing adolescents to access treatment without parental consent can sometimes remove barriers to treatment, especially if the minors want help but do not have parental support to receive treatment, or if they feel unable to disclose mental health problems to their parents.
The research article entitled, “What Can Parents Do? A Review of State Laws Regarding Decision Making for Adolescent Drug Abuse and Mental Health Treatment” summarizes several of the advantages and disadvantages regarding US state laws regarding parental and adolescent decision-making for substance use and mental health inpatient and outpatient treatment. One disadvantage discussed in the article is what the Binion’s found themselves up against: “State laws making minor consent sufficient for treatment pose no barrier for parents seeking help for their children, but laws that require minor consent may present a barrier to treatment for adolescents. More research is needed to understand the decision-making abilities of adolescents about seeking treatment…”
On October 19, 2010, just days after his 17th birthday, Jordan Binion committed suicide. Shortly after Jordy’s death, the Binion’s testified before Congress and lobbied tirelessly to pass state law in their home state of Washington. The law was passed in 2012 and requires mental health professionals to “clearly notify parents of their right to commit their mentally ill child for treatment, even if the child did not consent.” Additionally, Jordy’s mom and dad, Willie and Deborah, and his brother Anthony founded The Jordan Binion Project (“JBP”) with the mission to “bring awareness to mental health through education.” The JBP’s website lets visitors know that, “Most serious mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia emerge between the ages of 15-24 years, but students have not been taught about the symptoms of these disorders, that treatment and recovery are possible, and how critical it is to seek help for themselves or people they care about.” The website also offers tips on talking to your parents if you are struggling: http://www.jordanbinionproject.org/keys-to-recovery/how-to-talk-to-your-parents/
Our hearts go out to everyone who has considered suicide, to those who are suicide-loss survivors, and to all those suffering any mental illness that has ever compelled you to feel that you are not necessary. While we might not know you, the reader, personally, we do know this: If you are suffering, you deserve treatment.
If you need help, please reach out today:
- The National Suicide Prevention hotline is: (800) 273-8255
- The MY3 app allows you to define your network and your plan to stay safe: http://my3app.org/
- Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741741 (in the U.S.)
And, if you or someone you know have been denied treatment for any mental health issue, please call Kantor & Kantor for a free consultation at (877) 783-8686 or fill out our online contact form http://www.kantorlaw.net/Contact-Us.aspx. We understand and we can help.