Action for Mental Health: Final Report, 1961

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

VI
The Second Question:
How Can We Catch Up?

DISPARITIES OF MEANS AND ENDS

THE Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health now faces the responsibility that we accepted from Congress to recommend a national program for the control of mental illness.

We have revealed the hope of dedicated mental health workers that they can—through scientific knowledge, general experience, social conscience, or the sheer force of tender feelings—help the mentally sick to regain their social balance and build up individual strength of mind. We have analyzed the towering obstacles that lie in the path of such therapeutic efforts.

The obstacles, in outline, are these: A main characteristic of psychosis or any severe mental illness is disordered behavior of some kind. Such behavior tends to alienate the person from his fellow men. They commonly fail to recognize him as sick, and his plight stimulates disapproval rather than a desire to help him. Aware of this rejecting attitude but themselves not entirely immune to it, psychiatrists and others who work with the mentally ill can help them through humane, healing care. But medical science presently lacks the kind of knowledge that would make it possible to treat the mentally ill quickly, certainly, and cheaply. Psychotics can be treated individually and privately with good results, but most patients and their families lack money for the prolonged treatment or hospitalization that is

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