December 5, 2019 | Philadelphia Magazine

In “Assault on Privacy,” Philly Police Routinely Reveal Mental Health Status of Missing City Residents

“This is a fundamental assault on privacy,” says Dominic Sisti, the director of the Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics in Behavioral Health Care at the University of Pennsylvania. “It will follow them wherever they go, and it is stigmatizing. You say schizophrenia and most people still think that the person has ‘split personalities.’”

Sisti points out that while telling the public what the missing person was last seen wearing and how tall they are might help somebody spot the individual, telling the public that the person is schizophrenic or bipolar will not.

“It’s just an anachronism from times gone by where this is essentially code for this person may be dangerous,” he adds. “It’s a dog whistle about violence and danger which is not empirically true, statistically speaking. This points to our false beliefs about individuals with mental illness. But a person with schizophrenia is no more violent than a person without schizophrenia, and, in fact, the person with schizophrenia is probably more vulnerable to being victimized.”

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