Mental Health Community Essay

3289 words - 14 pages

Hunter College school of social work |
The Mental Health Community |
Ilia Lopez |
Social Work Practice and Learning Lab II (718)
Professor: Norma Uriguen
July 2010


This article will focus on: the American historical journey of the treatment of those that have been labeled as having a mental disorder and its connection to the current social, political and economic ramifications impacting those with a mental health condition. An entire community of people has been abused in the name of making sane those that have gone “mad”.
Within our society and the world at large community problems of concern exist – particularly as it relates to ...view middle of the document...

g. political, religious, or sexual) nor conflicts that are primarily between the
individual and society are mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict is a symptom of
a dysfunction in the individual as described above.
A common misconception is that a classification of mental disorders classifies people, when
actually what is being classified are disorders people have. (p. xxi)

In the past those with mental health conditions were referred to as lunatics, mad, insane, and maniacs. Such terms are derogatory in nature and help shape public opinion and attitude, lead to stereotyping, stigmatization, marginalization and oppression. Prior to the 19th Century, those assumed to have a mental health condition were subjected to inhumane conditions - torture. The lunatics were kept in underground filthy and foul smelling cells and were beaten, chained, and or kept in “madd-shirts”. They were exposed to visits from the public at large to be viewed for entertainment purposes (Whitaker, 2002).
Those considered to be mad were viewed as demonically possessed; antisocial; dangerous; inferior; incompetent; and lazy – similarly to how they’re viewed today. During the 18th Century those that were mentally ill were considered to be less than human – beasts – and unable to reason. They were treated by mad doctors; the treatments included: beatings; bleeding; starving; hydrating; spinning; purging; and exposure to extreme temperatures (Whitaker, 2002). Because the mentally ill were viewed as being biologically inferior such treatments were viewed as appropriate.
During the 19th Century inhumane practices were replaced with that of moral treatment. This was a time when those living as mad were thought to be people in distress. In 1817 the Philadelphia Quakers opened the first moral treatment asylum in America (Whitaker, 2000). Its successes working with the mentally ill led to the opening of various such institutions in numerous states. Private and public asylums were built to treat the rich and poor insane respectively. People were treated with dignity and respect. Beyond the provision of basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter, their living quarters were clean and they had access to books, art, and entertainment. Those working with them were of Quaker upbringing with humble demeanor who believed that with tenderness, kindness and love one could be cured.
The institutions available became overcrowded particularly after the civil war. Having to contend with an overwhelming number of patients – not just those considered being mentally ill but injured soldiers and the elderly as well - such conditions led to abuse, poor care and outcomes and underfunding for the public institutions. According to a Mental Health report of the Surgeon General, late in the 19th century this gave rise to the mental hygiene reform combined with scientific medicine and social progressivism.
During the mental hygiene movement...

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