American Psychosis

American Psychosis

How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System

Book - 2014
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Oxford University Press
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered an historic speech on mental illness and retardation. He described sweeping new programs to replace "the shabby treatment of the many millions of the mentally disabled in custodial institutions" with treatment in community mental health centers. This movement, later referred to as "deinstitutionalization," continues to impact mental health care. Though he never publicly acknowledged it, the program was a tribute to Kennedy's sister Rosemary, who was born mildly retarded and developed a schizophrenia-like illness. Terrified she'd become pregnant, Joseph Kennedy arranged for his daughter to receive a lobotomy, which was a disaster and left her severely retarded.

Fifty years after Kennedy's speech, E. Fuller Torrey's book provides an inside perspective on the birth of the federal mental health program. On staff at the National Institute of Mental Health when the program was being developed and implemented, Torrey draws on his own first-hand account of the creation and launch of the program, extensive research, one-on-one interviews with people involved, and recently unearthed audiotapes of interviews with major figures involved in the legislation. As such, this book provides historical material previously unavailable to the public. Torrey examines the Kennedys' involvement in the policy, the role of major players, the responsibility of the state versus the federal government in caring for the mentally ill, the political maneuverings required to pass the legislation, and how closing institutions resulted not in better care - as was the aim - but in underfunded programs, neglect, and higher rates of community violence. Many now wonder why public mental illness services are so ineffective. At least one-third of the homeless are seriously mentally ill, jails and prisons are grossly overcrowded, largely because the seriously mentally ill constitute 20 percent of prisoners, and public facilities are overrun by untreated individuals. As Torrey argues, it is imperative to understand how we got here in order to move forward towards providing better care for the most vulnerable.


Publisher: Oxford ;, New York :, Oxford University Press,, [2014]
ISBN: 9780199988716
0199988714
Characteristics: x, 204 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

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StarGladiator
Oct 10, 2013

Dr. Torrey does an exemplary job explaining how America arrived at its present condition: the mentally ill living on America's streets, instead of being properly cared for. The original deinstitutionalization thrust originated within the Kennedy Administration (as did the Internet, the NASA space program, which generated so many technological developments, proposals for land reform and workers' rights throughout the Americas, and so forth), but was later severely compromised. Once again, a scholar has pulled back the curtain on the historic revisionism meant to mislead us and shows us the truth.

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