More than a dozen Canadians with mental illnesses have reported difficulties entering the U.S. in the last year, due to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security having access to certain mental health information.
Lois Kamenitz, 65, was prevented from boarding a flight to Los Angeles by U.S. customs officials. Kamenitz told CBC News that she was stopped on the basis of her suicide attempt four years earlier. She says a Customs and Border Protection Officer told her he had information regarding the police visit to her home’visits which are recorded in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database.
Kamenitz says she was able to board a flight four days after missing her initial flight, but only after she had submitted her medical records to the U.S. and received clearance from a Homeland Security-approved doctor‘a service she was charged $250 for.
The Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office has received numerous phone calls from Canadians concerned their own mental health history may disrupt future travel south of the border.
People suffering from a mental illness already often face a stigma which sometimes even prevents them from seeking help. Doesn’t this action by U.S. Homeland Security only further stigmatize and discriminate against mental illness? And to what end? Recent research from the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology has found more than one third of Europeans to be suffering from a mental disorder in any one year, showing just how many people can be affected. I hardly think that mental illness classifies someone as a security risk.
Have you faced discrimination based on your mental health history?