Thursday, May 07, 2009

How America’s Failure to Treat the Mentally Ill Endangers its Citizens.

Beginning in the 1950s, in the U.S., hundreds of thousands of patients with severe psychiatric disorders (Schizophrenia, and Bipolar Disorder). were discharged from public mental hospitals, under the banner of deinstitutionalization.

Despite good intentions, the emptying of psychiatric hospitals over the last five decades has become one of the biggest social disasters in recent history. It lead to an increase in suicide, homelessness, victimization of the mentally ill, and acts of violence brought on by a small sub-group of the severely mentally ill, chiefly because of neglect. Once released, as sick as they were, they received no treatment, no proper care, ultimately left to fend for themselves.

The Insanity Offense: How America’s Failure to Treat the Mentally Ill Endangers its Citizens. By: Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, outlines the tragic consequences of deinstitutionalization and alerts Americans to the real need for reform.

Dr. Torrey is donating the royalties for the book sales to the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), which he founded. The TAC is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illnesses. They promotes laws, policies, and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder."

“As for me, you know that I shouldn’t precisely have chosen madness if there had been any choice, but once such a thing has taken hold of you, you can’t very well get out of it,” -- Vincent Van Gogh wrote from a psychiatric hospital in 1889. Less than a year later, he committed suicide.
On June 4, Georgia executed Curtis Osborne. Osborne's defense lawyer at trial was racially biased against him and failed to do the most basic investigation that might have saved his client's life. The attorney repeatedly referred to Osborne with a racial epithet, saying, "that little n____r deserves the chair." At the time of the murder that sent Osborne to death row, he was suffering from mental problems and his family had a history of mental illness going back for 3 generations. However, Osborne's attorney failed to raise this issue. His story is recounted in a video prepared by his defense attorneys.


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