Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill
University of Phoenix
America’s evolution regarding the difficulties of how society treats the mentally ill among us is not for the faint of heart. As with all medical advancements the early days are filled with horror stories we would not dream of repeating. Money played a large role in how to fuel the evolution. People with money and influence were able to either house the mentally ill in special homes. These homes experienced tremendous growth. Ackerman (2003) states, “Whitaker found that in the 50 years between 1840 and 1890, the population of hospitalized mentally ill grew from 2,561 to 74,000 patients. The number of mental hospitals, private and public, leaped from 18 in 1840 to 139 in 1880.” This sharp rise in population happened because the number of things that could earn you admittance to one of these hospitals was quite varied. They included anything from alcoholism to masturbation to postpartum depression, old-age senility, cerebral arteriosclerosis, brain tumors and dementia, as well as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. (Ackerman, 2003) These were places where the lucky ones who could afford it were sent. A sharp contrast to the “insane asylum” was put forward in a graphic short story by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman that described the fictional descent into madness realized by a woman who was confined to a room in a vacation cottage by her physician husband after being diagnosed with a nervous disorder after childbirth. Her husband believed that confinement and rest would cure her of this disorder, but instead what ensued was an increase in mania. (Perkins-Gilman, 1892) Ms. Perkins-Gilman could not have foreseen how accurately she would parallel the effects of deinstitutionalization on the mentally ill some seventy years later.
With the 1963 passing of The Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act a major change was undertaken. In many ways the act...