By Michael Gottlieb, B. Sc.
How the Mentally Ill Have Been Abandoned by the Ills of a Society Gone Bad
Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of City Voices, its writers or its staff.
Reform of the mental health system in the U.S. was well underway when President John F. Kennedy endorsed this new era in mental health in a 1963 speech. He called for a “bold new approach” in which “reliance on the cold mercy of custodial isolation will be supplanted by the open warmth of community concern and capability.”
One of President Kennedy’s sisters suffered from severe mental illness and back in the 1930s and 1940s they used brain lobotomy. What was Kennedy’s interest or attitude toward the mentally ill and mental health?
Kennedy agreed that locking people away in mental hospitals was inhumane and indecent. He was open to the psychiatrists and activists who wanted local community mental health centers. But Kennedy could not persuade the U.S. Congress to fund that program. So when psychiatric hospitals were closed and the patients discharged, they had to fend for themselves.
Electric shock ‘therapy’ (aka electro convulsive ‘therapy’) was popular for a while. Psychoanalysis seems to have lost out to cognitive behavior therapy and behavior modification therapy. And of course, psychiatric chemical medications. No primal therapy or orthomolecular (nutritional psychiatry) therapy. Those would be the two primary healing tools for mental illness.
President John F. Kennedy tried to introduce compassion into society. However, society seems to operate according to two basic principles: Mindless hedonism (engaging in activities to satisfy personal pleasures and desires, regardless of how it affects or hurts other people, the environment, etc.) and “the ends justify the means.” Helping the severely mentally ill by creating local community support systems (housing, social support, financial support, etc.) did not jive with those values. Hedonism nullified any serious effort to help the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. They were abandoned and left to fend for themselves.
Fountain House is the rare example of a support system for people with severe mental illness. However, they do not focus on therapy or healing. Fountain House is predicated on the concept of having the mentally ill perform useful and meaningful work to give them a sense of dignity, self-worth and demonstrate that the mentally ill can be productive members of society. But they do not focus on healing the terrible wounds afflicting these folks.
These mental ‘wounds’ continue to fester unless they are accessed and healed through primal plus dream therapy, counseling, orthomolecular psychiatry, etc. The mental wounds fester and eventually manifest as serious and severe disease: Multiple sclerosis, arthritis, heart disease, cancers, etc. The premature death rate is directly related to the disunity of mind, heart and body, which eventually breaks down under the ‘weight’ and ‘pressure’ of repressed mental ‘wounds.’
Fountain House is performing a very rare (in our society) and vital service for the mentally ill by providing a support system and a place to work. Founded in 1944 by Michael Obolensky, a former patient, and Elizabeth Schermerhorn, a former volunteer. Fountain House earned the 2014 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, one of a number of awards it has earned since 1996.
Society is also using prisons, jails, the streets, nursing homes, etc. to place the mentally ill. It is a known fact that thousands of mentally ill people are incarcerated in prisons. New York City’s own Rikers Island prison has, over the past decade, housed approximately 4,000 mentally ill men and women at any given time. Harsh jail conditions with their violent culture often cause deterioration in these inmates, which jails are unequipped to handle.
The pharmaceutical companies are making huge profits from selling psychiatric medications. Orthomolecular psychiatry (nutritional psychiatry) is virtually unknown in America. They censored Drs. Hoffer and Osmond.
When President John Fitzgerald Kennedy tried to introduce compassion into our society the U.S. Congress blocked most, if not all, of his legislation. Was that because our federal elected ‘leaders’ (senators and representatives), to a very large degree, mirror and reflect the values and consciousness of the masses of Americans?
The hardened materialism and callous indifference to the pain and suffering of the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society by the masses of our fellow Americans was the primary driving force blocking President Kennedy’s legislative program.
Is making money the primary goal, primary motivating force in our society?
Making money, greed and callous competitiveness, regardless of how it affects or hurts others, seems to be a major motive of society. But society seems to have descended into the animal world of Darwinian jungle mentality. The idea of bringing healing or providing housing, social support to the mentally ill, or any person for that matter, has been trampled by the mindless stampede of hedonism and selfishness. Society seems to radiate enormous amounts of brutality and cruelty on a daily basis. It is considered ‘normal’ to be uncaring, unfeeling and callous, ignoring those left behind, the mentally disabled, poor, and frail elderly.
Our fellow Americans, with very few exceptions, adopted and believe in the Darwinian jungle values—survival of the fittest. Disabled psychologically and/or physically, this “consciousness” gives way to terrorism, war, theft, crime, hurricanes, droughts, earthquakes, violence, guns, etc. 9/11 could have been a wake-up call. Instead, society ascribed it to “an act of Nature.”
Any final words?
Keep your eye single on the “I Am” spirit within you. Be more caring, kind and compassionate toward one another, and yourselves. Create solutions that are win-win for all. A little healing goes a long way. “This too shall pass.” Planetary ‘cleansing’ and ‘scourging’ will provide humanity with a fresh start to use free will more wisely. If human nature does not transform to help one another instead of hurt one another, Nature will take its course.
Pullout: “Be more caring, kind and compassionate toward one another, and yourselves. Create solutions that are win-win for all. A little healing goes a long way.”