Have We Failed People With Serious Mental Illness?
Ellen Dwyer, a professor in the Department of History at Indiana University, was recruited to review E. Fuller Torrey’s book American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System. In her review, Dwyer alludes to our “disastrous failure” (para. 7) to meet the needs of people with serious mental illness. She notes:
[E]ven Torrey’s critics agree that the “deinstitutionalization” movement was flawed and that many community mental health centers, especially in their early decades, treated ever larger numbers of the so-called worried well but failed to meet the needs of those with chronic disorders. (para. 1)
Dwyer concludes her review with this paragraph:
Torrey has been a passionate critic of American mental illness policies for more than half a century. If this book generates yet more outrage, it merits widespread distribution. However, insofar as he generates fear and offers overly simple solutions to the problems that so disturb him, his recommendations may have undesirable, albeit unintended, consequences for the very people whom he wants to help. (para. 11)
Is it fair to call deinstitutionalization a disastrous failure? If so, has the damage been repaired a half century later? Will the Affordable Care Act result in more humane and more accessible care for those with serious mental illness?
By Ellen Dwyer
PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(17)