Action for Mental Health: Final Report, 1961

By Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health | Go to book overview

I
The First Question: Why Has Care
of the Mentally Ill Lagged?

WE ARE TEMPTED simply to take the position that there is a crying public demand and great unmet needs for mental health services of all kinds. The demand and needs are easily observable in the difficulty many persons experience in seeing a psychiatrist when they feel the need of one, in the long waiting lists of mental health clinics, the small amount of treatment many clinic patients receive, the total absence of mental health workers and clinics in many communities, the overcrowding of public mental hospitals, and their professional staff shortages. Despite the new drugs and increases in hospital personnel, many thousands of patients diagnosed as seriously ill receive little or no care of a kind designed to bring about their improvement or recovery.

Commonly, the clearly defined, well-established public demand and need for a particular health program is sufficient to stimulate aggressive public action toward its support and progressive steps to organize whatever preventive, treatment, research, and educational facilities may be needed. This we can see has been the general course of action in our time against such diseases as tuberculosis, the water‐ and milk-borne infections, and the insect-borne infections; against the dietary diseases such as rickets, scurvy, and pellagra; against syphilis, poliomyelitis, and the great killers, such as heart disease and cancer.

Quick responsiveness in meeting the demand is not characteristic in the mental illness field, however. Every responsible person in

-3-

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