When BBC broke the news that Russia has allegedly banned people with “gender identity disorders,” like transgender people, from driving, American media erupted in a wave of disapproval at Russia’s anti-LGBT policies. Russia, a country that has banned “homosexual propaganda” and gay pride parades, is generally not known to be a happy place for gay and transgender people. The release of this document doesn’t help Russia’s image or the ability of transgender people to live freely and without persecution.
But in looking past the initial brouhaha, it becomes apparent that the actual document discriminates against people with mental illness too. Using a list of disorders and diseases from the ICD-10, which is the standard diagnostic tool used by the World Health Organization, the document lists a couple categories of illness that one cannot have if one wishes to drive, including mental and behavioral disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder, manic-depression, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.
Russia has reportedly banned people with a laundry list of various illnesses from driving in an effort to help curb the amount of fatalities caused by automobile accidents, according to The Guardian.
There has been no widely accepted, peer-reviewed journal article establishing that people who suffer with mental illness may be at a higher risk of car accidents.
In the same vein, many have said that these driving restrictions will create more stigmas for transgender people and deter those people from seeking help – this decree from the Russian government can do the same for people with mental illnesses. People who have mental illnesses already face a variety of obstacles when seeking help, including lack of health care access due to location, the financial burden that psychological and psychiatric treatment can result in, and the fear of seeking treatment because of the stigma attached to mental illness. For people with families or friends that view mental illness as a moral failing or psychological weakness (especially in males), the urge to seek help can be tampered by the fear of being found out and then judged harshly. In banning people who have conditions like PTSD and depression from driving, people with mental illness are being treated like ‘others,’ and ultimately may be prevented from seeking necessary psychological help.
As many people are car-dependent, robbing people of their ability to drive can result in an inability to work and to freely visit friends and family.
It remains to be seen how the ban, which also includes people with physical and vision impairments, will actually be enforced.