Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Reframing Inequities Experienced by People With Severe Mental Illness

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Topic:In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson stated that citizens of the new republic had fundamental and inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”Purpose:The purpose of this article is to reframe inequities experienced by people living with severe mental illnesses in terms of violations of Jeffersonian rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We simultaneously consider governmental and clinical efforts to address identified inequities and uphold these rights.Sources Used:The broad research literature on severe mental illnesses was examined.Conclusions and Implications for Practice:People with severe mental illnesses experience numerous inequities regarding “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” These inequities include diminished life expectancy, excessive involuntary commitment and elevated rates of unemployment and homelessness. Governmental and clinical responses to such inequities include the Affordable Care Act and the Olmstead Decision, as well as recovery-oriented interventions such as Supported Employment and Supported Housing.

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