This entry first appeared at Mad in America on October 29, 2013.
In Butte County, California, Law Enforcement and NAMI have recently partnered to provide identification cards for people in the mental health system. The cards reveal the person’s psychiatric diagnosis and current medication prescriptions. The voluntary photo ID cards are called ‘White Cards.’
The goal is to help law enforcement have on-the-spot psychiatric information, about someone they are questioning. The local NAMI president explained the ID cards also include a person’s triggers, like . . . “If you get too close, I get violent.”
This White Card project may be well-intentioned, but it makes me very uncomfortable. I believe it is a form of psychiatric profiling that could be adopted by law enforcement around the United States, with the powerful political backing of NAMI, and the tacit if not public support of psychiatry.
The operative stigmatizing equation appears to be “mental patient” = unacceptable danger to others. Will police believe that “good,” compliant and NAMI-aligned “mental patients,” who will be able to show the police a White Card with their diagnosis and prescribed medications, make up a lower risk group, than people without a White Card, who reject being identified by a diagnosis, and may not be taking meds?
Will people without White Cards be seen as potentially more dangerous by the police?
And won’t the police eventually want a data base of all White Card holders to cross check against when someone hands them a White Card, creating a kind of watch list?
I can imagine staff at psychiatric hospitals pressuring confined people, to sign up for a White Card as a new and added criterion for their discharge.
I can imagine staff at mental health clinics urging people who are court-ordered to receive forced treatment in the community to also get a White Card.
The cards can be obtained at a NAMI office, or at the police station.
Supplying people with “mental patient” identification cards, conveys the implication that something is proven, that predicts a person’s behavior about potential violence, whereas the state of the scientific research, cannot support such an ID card project aimed at violence prevention. It ends up being psychiatric profiling – a whole class of people becomes the socially identified scapegoat, based on the fears and projections of others. Once again we see the psychiatric diagnosis process serving as a public degradation ceremony, that effectively strips personal identity away, to legitimize the enforcement of the regulation of deviance in our communities.
This White Card project is happening against the backdrop of over 40 states oppressing people with forced, in home treatment laws.
Draconian measures imprisoning and forcibly medicating and giving ECT to people, are challenged now by the UN, which equates forced psychiatric treatment with torture, as Tina Minkowitz has so well documented here on Madinamerica.
This joint Law Enforcement/NAMI White Card project looks to be another ominous development to me.