Blogging Against Disabilism Day this Friday, May 1
This is really more a reminder to myself to have something ready to post on Friday. Still, I thought I’d give you all a heads up. More details about this can be found at Diary of a Goldfish.
Now that the day is here, I have something to post! This is a comment on the Inside Higher Ed article,”One Year Later,” on the Virginia Tech shootings. The article itself was okay, although as usual the discussion centered around gun laws, not the rights of mentally ill persons to adequate treatment. The disabilism was very apparent in the comments though. The first comment, from Clayton Cramer, concluded
“Deinstitutionalization was one of the major mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s. The mentally ill are paying the price for it today, and so is the rest of our society.”
Of course, this fellow opposes gun control (and supports home schooling, and criticizes affirmative action. citizens of Idaho — do not vote for him!) So, his solution is to lock all the “crazies” away — oh wait, we’re already doing that at least according to what my colleagues in criminal justice say about the high rates of mentally ill persons in prison.
Rod Bell, Adjunct Professor at College of DuPage, said something similar, blaming this all on the hippies in the sixties who revolted against authority. Sheesh, I hope this guy isn’t an adjunct professor of history. This is just a sloppy historical analysis that would get an “F” in any of my classes. For the record, dude, it was John F. Kennedy, not the hippies, who initiated the move away from warehousing the mentally ill in asylums in favor of community-centered mental health. Also, exposes of the hideous conditions inside psychiatric hospitals were made by WWII conscientious objectors, i.e. long before Ken Kesey’s novel.
Added later: In reply to Mr. Cramer’s comments, I would say first that my point is that it is indeed simplistic to attribute the current mental health crisis solely to the anti-psychiatry movement and/or the anti-authoritarian impulses of the 1960s (whatever is meant by that — a subject for another post). As Gerald Grob and Howard H. Goldman observe in their recent book, The Dilemma of Federal Mental Health Policy, the move from mental hospitals to a community-based system of mental health care delivery was the product of a broad coalition of mental health experts, patients and their advocates, and politicians such as President Kennedy among many others. The complexity of this movement, I think, gets lost because of the fame of Ken Kesey’s book and the academy-award winning film that was made from it, as well as the notoriety of Thomas Szasz’s work (for the record, I have multiple problems with Szasz, but that too is a subject for another post).
The reason the Community Mental Health programs initiated in the 1960s failed is not because they emptied the hospitals, but because there was never enough funding to meet the need for services. We have millions of uninsured individuals in this country, and many insurance plans do not offer mental health parity. Although the state of Connecticut mandates this for all health plans, the new Charter Oak Health plan proposed by our Governor to cover uninsured adults excludes mental health parity because it is too costly. A bill (HB 5617) has been proposed to solve this problem.
I could go on and on, but I do have to get ready for class, where we will look at all those crazy feminists who messed things up for the rest of America by asking for the radical notion that women be treated like human beings.