Mental Illness and Guardianship – The Discussion Continues

The New Mexico Guardianship Association recently hosted its annual Symposium, offering speakers on topics related to guardianship and conservatorship.  The theme of the Symposium this year was mental illness and its impact on guardianship.  Speakers talked about the difficulties of finding the balance between protecting individuals with mental illness and allowing them autonomy and independence.  The discussion was thought-provoking and highly relevant, given that approximately 4.1% of adults in the United States (1 in 25) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activity.

Advocates for persons with mental illness often oppose guardianship as it is sometimes seen as a means of forced medication, mechanical restraint and legal coercion.  However, families of individuals with debilitating mental illness often see guardianship as the only means of protecting a loved one from endangering themselves or others.

Whatever your perspective may be, mental illness is mysterious and largely misunderstood by the general public.  For a fascinating look inside mental illness from the perspective of the individual with the disease, read, “The Center Will Not Hold:  My Journey Through Madness,” by Elyn Saks.  The story follows Ms. Saks’ graduation from Vanderbilt, serving as a Marshall Scholar at Oxford and receiving a Master of Letters before going to law school at Yale. She also obtained a doctorate in psychoanalysis and is now a professor at USC, where she specializes in mental health law, criminal law, and children and the law. And she has schizophrenia.  It is an intriguing story and it will change your perception of mental illness.