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Depressed? You May Not Be Able to Enter the U.S.

Could you imagine being discriminated against because you had a broken arm? Or a diagnosis of cancer? Or suffered from a concussion (like hundreds of pro sports players do every year) and were denied rights everyone else enjoys?

What if you suffered from clinical depression and have been, at past times in your life, severely depressed? Should the government be allowed to discriminate against you because of a mental health diagnosis?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s agency of Customs and Border Protection apparently thinks that maybe sometimes the answer should be “yes.”

You’d think I was making this up. Sadly, I’m not.

15 Comments to
Depressed? You May Not Be Able to Enter the U.S.

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  1. I just heard about this on the radio – really alarming. Is it safe to assume that if I’ve had no interaction with the police my medical records can’t be accessed by US border officials? I sure hope so. It looks like we might need to invoke some of the electronic rules used in academia and also make sure that all Cdn medical records are held on Cdn servers so they can’t be subject to the Patriot Act, etc.

  2. Gee, and then you can all wonder what will happen WHEN the EMR system that will include mental health records is hacked or used nefariously by multiple groups allowed honest access, be them the government, businesses, or, hold onto your seats folks, the USA secret police!

    OK, I exaggerate the last one there, but it is only a matter of time before there is a legitimate secret police organization that will be just like the Nazi Gestapo, or Soviet KGB. Oops, there is one like that here already, the NSA.

    My bad!

    • While Richardson claims there was no police involvement, it’s possible she did not realize or know that a police report was filed with the 2012 hospitalization when an ambulance was called (depending upon what jurisdiction the ambulance was from).

      The CPB is clear wrt to the fact they only access law enforcement records.

  3. I read this story a few days and it made me sick to my stomach. According to the woman who was denied entry, the police were never involved with the situation as to being hospitalized for depression.

    Which then makes you question then how did they get the information when there would be none in a police database?

    This now makes me wonder if I would be denied entry to the US because I too have been hospitalized and the police were involved.

    I haven’t gone to the US in at least 18 years but there are times I would like to do day shopping since I am close to the border but now have my doubts.

  4. To add insult to injury – she is also out of pocket $6,000 which is non-refundable from the insurance policy she took out because it doesn’t cover beginning denied access.

    But it is a very frightening thought that they had access to her medical records.

    She also told them they could call her psychiatrist, however, there are only 3 psychiatrists that are approved to give clearance for her trip. How would that be possible for anyone to do?

  5. For experiences like this, and another experience with a police information check, I will never call the police, or a crisis team again. It would be nice to know that it was an option but the potential consequences are too frightening.

  6. OK, this may be overstepping the intent of the law, however, I believe the guidelines governing entry into the U.S. are made with the health and safety of citizens in mind. I think it’s absurd to claim that a broken leg or other physical injury is in the same category as self-harm. I believe that’s WHY suicidal ideation is considered a mental illness. Think of the Boston bombers for example: There has to be some mental instability in those guys, which apparently went undetected, or was minimized, or perhaps hadn’t resulted in traceable legal action. We often witness people with suicidal intent taking innocent victims with them. I don’t know all of the details of this specific case, however, I would prefer to err on the side of caution than see another woman drive through Washington DC and perhaps kill others in her “episode”. I am truly sorry for this woman. However agree, when the author states that “maybe, sometimes, the answer is yes”. I think that minimizing the extent and degree of mental illness is a contributing factor in the mass shootings and excessive force cases that continue to plague our society. Not to omit suicide by cop. Inadequate diagnosis and care, a refusal to acknowledge real threat associated with people who are willing to harm themselves -and possibly others- has been ignored to the intolerable cost of many lives. Without a doubt, MOST suicide victims only harm themselves, but think of the ramifications if this information was available, and nobody acted, and it became another case of others being harmed. The author hasn’t provided enough information to know what the determining factors were, as she reported “this is a very rare occurrence.”

    • This situation is completely absurd. There is a huge difference between the type of suicidal ideation a depressed person has and the desire to die in some sort of “glorious” suicide mission.

      A person just passing through on the way to a cruise is likely to have absolutely no effect on the country except for a positive economic one. It would be ridiculous to deny her a tourist visa, too if she wanted one. Plenty of Americans take medication for depression or anxiety and are usually allowed to do whatever they want unless they’re going through a serious crisis right now.

      There should be some kind of international standard against this kind of discrimination–any declaration of human rights by any international organization should specifically condemn discrimination against the mentally ill and other heath-based discrimination.

      When it comes to permanent immigration, one’s medical data might be relevant, but not for short visits. Obvious exceptions would include the violently psychotic (symptoms not controlled by medication), or people with contageous diseases.

      If a country insists on having such laws, it should at least warn travelers in advance so they will know not to go or to get a note from one of the “approved” psychiatrists.

  7. I suffer from anxiety, depression and a deep fear of authority, which puts me at a major disadvantage in certain situations (like the one described). I also came to the US on a K1 visa… and before I could get it I had to provide a letter from my psychiatrist and answer questions about what we’d do if my emotional state became problematic post-immigration, simply because being an honest person I ticked the box ‘have you ever suffered clinical depression’. I was TERRIFIED I’d be refused, but aside from the extra questioning it wasn’t an issue… (btw, there was apparantly no permanent police report or record of the time when the authorities had to break into my home to take me off to hospital… I had to submit a police report to get the visa and all it said was there was no file on me, which was what Immigration wanted to hear.) The fact is that the border control can turn you away on a whim, which is cause for great trepidation among anyone who has ever encountered them before.

  8. I want to restate my EXTREME concern that any person representing him/herself as a professional in the field of psychology would equate a mental health diagnosis with a physical injury. It emphasizes my point that the medical community, and it’s support group, regularly minimize the serious threat that these diseases present. We’ve seen the results – over and over – of this failure to treat the affected for the severe and life-threatening potential they suffer with.

  9. We furriners are probably disqualifying ourselves from entering the US just by posting replies to this article.

    Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? If you never get depressed and think about leaping from a highway overpass to endanger the lives of American motorists, what are you doing reading this stuff? Huh?

    And what’s that in your hand? Call that a passport?

  10. I’m on meds. for bipolar/manic depression, following three hospitalization for extended periods. I’m in remission, carefully taking my meds. I see my psychiatrist once a year for consultation. The police were directly involved in taking me to hospital twice.

    When I was in a manic state, I committed a minor misdemeanor (I stole a newspaper) and was arrested, photographed and fingerprinted. The judge referred me to a forensic psychiatrist for treatment, and, subsequently, dismissed all charges against me.

    All of this was 15 years ago. I have not attempted to enter the US since, knowing that the
    arrest would likely preclude me from entering.

    I did not know, until the recent story, that my medical condition would also likely bar me.

    So, I’ll stay home, fly to the Caribbean, Europe, Far East, South America (via Cuba), Australia, Far East, etc. – anywhere without going through the US.
    It doesn’t need me; I don’t need it!!

  11. Well here’s what I say about all this. First off I was denied entry to Canada at Dorval Intl. Airport in Montreal after being interviewed with immigration officer. They asked questions like “Do you Love your family”….Huh? What does that have t do with coming to Canada? Then checked my work/criminal background. They wouldn’t let me in since it was during the Gulf War in 1991 I was 24 years old so they thought I was a “Draft Dodger” .One problem there wasn’t a draft like during Vietnam War for U.S. Citizens. Then told me because of this I’d have to get a clearance to come to Canada as I was classified an Inadmissible Class for 7 years. To me it’s equal standard that Canada sets for U.S. Citizens. An immigration officer can deny entry to any foreign Citizen entry to a oountry or consulate general can deny a visa application without reason or explanation. I just wish they would apply this type of action/ruling in cracking down on the illegal aliens in this country that will probably given amnesty to the U.S. as politicians fear Special Interest Groups will file lawsuits so they go after legit citizens whom pay the price. Go figure. I know life isn’t fair it stinks when you have a person whom just wanted to catch a cruise then depart the country. Before 9-11 foreign citizens transferring to catch an international flight in the U.S. didn’t need a visa (for those whom need a visa) just to transfer now everyone has to go thru immigration just to catch an international flight. At least you don’t need exit visas to leave the U.S….AT LEAST NOT YET

  12. A psychologist is a person who helps by assessing, diagnosing and treating mental, emotional and behavioral issues.


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