Friday, May 27, 2022

The insane walk among us.

In the late 60s and 70s the idea spread that with all the psychotropic medications available  even the seriously, dangerously mentally ill could live at home as long as they had a strong support system. In 1961, Professor Thomas Szasz published his thunderbolt of a book, The Myth of Mental Illness and founded the  American Association for the Abolition of Involuntary Mental Hospitalization.  He testified before Congress and his theories caught on. He was also a proponent of suicide and did so in 2012. I've heard people mutter that, "Oh, Ronald Reagan closed the asylums in California and that's what started homelessness." No. The movement for closing mental institutions was a popular one that had been building long before that. Politicians responded to the people and the people had been told by movies, novels, the news, and academics that mental institutions were all bad. 

 What most of the well-meaning, nice people didn't realize was that eventually the strong 50 year old who can make his 20 year old son take his medicine, grows old and dies. The nice folks didn't take into account the number of people could not handle their sick relative and those who did not want to and felt that they'd been forced and shamed into the position of caretaker that they weren't equipped for. I can think of at least three examples of this:

  • A old college  friend of mine had a cousin who was homeless. She explained, when noticing my surprise --the family was well off-- that when he was a freshman at college his mind broke,  either by nature or by drug use. His parents brought him home from school and took care of them until they died. They left money. They left a house. They left siblings who by that time were senior citizens and unable and unwilling to sacrifice their lives to take on a 30 year old who could get violent if his dosage schedule varied. So he's on the street. 

  • One of my mother's neighbors took care of her mentally ill son  until her common-law husband died. She couldn't stay on the property as the husband never made any provisions for her legally. She decided to move a senior building but of course the building's management  would not allow her to bring her son with her so she left him. He lives in the alley nearby his old home and sometimes sleeps in the parking lot next door. His mother brings him food and laundry but he's on the street and sometimes he scares people rather badly when he's angry and  he gets arrested.  People who knew him when he was young look a bit shamefaced about it but  everyone, even the ones who are sympathetic to him are relieved when he's in jail. The last time I ran into him, I recoiled from his stench and then froze like a cornered rabbit until he passed me by. Living as he does, spending the Winters outdoors has turned his health. He's lost a good deal of weight and looks to be a shadow of himself. My mother is convinced that his body can't go like this and it's only a matter of time before he's found dead somewhere.


  • I have a cousin who was hit in the head with a baseball when he was eight which some family members believe caused brain damage. If he's not medicated he has no impulse control, is quick to panic  and has gotten violent with females. He's been to jail and prison. Thankfully he has four brothers who keep him at home and  step up time and again to protect him and clean up any mess he gets into. That's  obviously not what most families  in this situation are doing or can do. 

It should be obvious by now, that public mental hospitals are needed and desperately so. There are poor, sick  in soul and body people wandering the streets who ought to be in a humane institution with food, drink, medical care  and shelter.  The insane walk among us. For their sakes and the sakes of innocents who may be harmed by them, it has to stop. 

St. Dymphna, pray for us.