Cohen Highlights Trauma of Involuntary Commitments

Research by Social Welfare Professor David Cohen was cited in a Cut article about the legal consequences for individuals deemed mentally ill in the United States. Britney Spears’ conservatorship has highlighted the way that psychiatric diagnoses can be used to strip individuals of their rights to voting, medical decision-making, financial decisions and more. Cohen’s research shows that patient privacy laws and lack of data collection pertaining to human rights violations of the mentally ill make it difficult to estimate exactly how many people have experienced involuntary commitment. Last year, a study by Cohen found that involuntary commitments over the previous decade outpaced population growth three to one, and another estimate extrapolated that over 1 million Americans a year are involuntarily committed. “This is the most controversial intervention in mental health — you’re deprived of liberty, can be traumatized and then stigmatized — yet no one could tell how often it happens in the United States,” Cohen said.

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