Crazy (Mental Illness Under the ADA)

This Article examines how people with mental disabilities and mental illnesses have been treated under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Part I addresses the history of mental illness. It argues that while beliefs about the causes and content of mental illness have vacillated over time, the mentally ill have received consistently poor treatment throughout human history. Part II addresses present problems with the definition of mental illness, including how mental illness and mental disability are defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Part III discusses the problems faced by people with mental illness today. The author argues the current state of the law affords little protection to persons with mental illness, despite the existence of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Part III gives particular attention to the problems employers face, and think they face, when trying to accommodate the mentally disabled in the workplace. Part IV examines the distinction between physical and mental disability. The author argues that the distinction between these two categories of illness is untenable: many “physical” disabilities have a cognitive component, and many “mental” disabilities have direct physical effects. In the context of the ADA, the author argues that the distinction is merely a font of useless litigation, and that the additional cost of addition coverage for mental disabilities would be slight.

In Part V, the author proposes a solution: eliminating the ADA’s distinctions between mental and physical disabilities. The author argues that this would reduce the difficulties faced by the mentally disabled, and those whose disabilities are not easily categorized as either purely mental or purely physical, while not imposing any significant additional burden on employers.