The philosophy of infinite regress states that a proposition is only true if a second proposition is true, and the second proposition is true only if a third proposition is true, and so on for infinity. This was described in ancient mythology as Earth resting on the shell of a large turtle. This turtle rests on the shell of a larger turtle, which rests on the shell of an even larger turtle, and so on for infinity. In the original myth, none of these turtles are of ninja quality.
Mental health issues can feel like a pattern of infinite regress, especially when they layer with other legal issues. A mental health crisis can cause an individual to commit a crime (or vice versa), which can lead to a civil lawsuit, including involuntary commitment. Even treatment, such as a stay in a psychiatric hospital, can cause strain from income loss or isolation. The stress of resolving these issues can trigger an even greater mental health crisis, which often starts the cycle over again. It is issues and turtles all the way down.
Estate planning can help break the chain because it implements a support system. A mental health directive specifies what mental health treatment and medication a person prefers and consents to receive, if the need arises. A HIPAA release will allow family members to obtain medical information in case of hospitalization or incapacity. A Power of Attorney allows another individual to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. An estate planning attorney can advise on each of these documents.
If you are struggling with your mental health, reach out to National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-6264 or the Denton County Crisis Hotline at 1-800-762-0157. If a loved one has become incapacitated and can no longer care for themselves, consult an attorney regarding possible guardianship.
No turtles were harmed in the writing of this article.
Leslie is a Mental Health, Guardianship and Probate attorney at Hammerle Finley Law Firm.