Anatomy of a Baker Act: Week 4

How is the term “Mental Illness” defined in Florida?

Please read the following quotation from the form,
Report of Law Enforcement Officer Initiating Involuntary Examination:

“Mental illness” means an impairment of the mental or emotional processes that exercise conscious control of one’s actions or of the ability to perceive or understand reality, which impairment substantially interferes with the person’s ability to meet the ordinary demands of living. For the purposes of this part, the term does not include a developmental disability as defined in Chapter 393, F.S., intoxication, or conditions manifested only by antisocial behavior or substance abuse impairment.

Notice that if the sole cause of presenting symptoms is due to substance abuse or antisocial behaviors, then the term “mental illness” would not apply. Developmental disabilities also do not fall into this category.

Additionally, having a mental illness or mental disability does not mean a person automatically meets criteria for involuntary examination. The person has to be in a crisis state and at risk for harming themselves and/or others. This includes the presence of suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts or intent, as well as self-neglect.

The presence of self-harm behaviors is important to be aware of. Some people purposefully harm themselves through cutting or burning themselves as a maladaptive coping mechanism, while others unintentionally harm themselves by swallowing knives to be “closer to God” or attempting to perform open surgery on themselves. Sadly, not everyone needing help gets it in time, which is one reason having a healthy support system is so crucial.

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As always, this post is meant to be informative, and does not constitute legal or medical advice.

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