As Marya Hornbacher states in a recent interview with the Washington Post, one of the biggest misconceptions about people with a mental illness is, “[t]he idea that [mental illness] is about character, that it's not really an illness and it's a character flaw. I'd invite all those people who believe that to an anatomy-of-the-brain class, and they can learn that it is a brain disease! It's not about being a bad person or committing sin.”
In fact, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are neurobiological brain disorders that affect over 4 million individuals in the United States alone.
Unfortunately, many state laws do not reflect the current scientific understanding surrounding mental illnesses. The standards in many state statutes do not seek to prevent the deterioration of a severe mental illness. Instead, those laws make families and treatment providers wait for moments of extreme crisis to occur before authorizing the use of involuntary treatment, by which time it may be too late to help the individual. From both a commonsense and medical perspective, these statutes discriminate against those individuals with a severe mental illness whose symptoms are discernible in less violent ways.