“It’s insanity to kill your father with a kitchen knife. It’s also insanity to close hospitals, fire therapists and leave families to face mental illness on their own.
“’None of us are suggesting that we need to go back to 1930, when I as a psychiatrist could say, ‘I don’t like the sound of your voice, so I’m going to keep you in my facility that I also happen to own for three weeks.’ You have to have a system of checks and balances.’
“But the pendulum has swung far past patients’ rights and well into the territory of wild neglect. The dismantling of the mental-health system has left those willing to undergo treatment with no options, and rendered the laws to protect against dangerous scenarios ineffective. ‘Danger to self or others is defined too limitedly,’ (Dr. E. Fuller) Torrey says. ‘(Y)ou either have to be trying to kill your psychiatrist or trying to kill yourself in front of your psychiatrist.’ Some states have less-strict provisions, but even there, no open beds plus the expense of keeping someone in the beds equals admission standards that are too high and discharge standards that are too low.
“Regardless of what you think about commitment rules, the bottom line is you have to have facilities. If there had been a facility—not ‘a psych ward in a general hospital which is set up to see people with eating disorders and depression,’ Torrey says, but a clinic staffed with the appropriate kinds of professionals and with an open bed and antipsychotics that have proven to be extremely effective if properly administered— if my Uncle Mark could have taken Houston someplace like that—maybe crimes like Houston’s could be not just predictable, but preventable.”
Mac McLelland’s searing personal account of the consequences of deinstitutionalization was last week’s Mother Jones cover story.
Read the full story here.