Since the beginning of time people have suffered from mental illnesses. However, how they viewed it and handled people with this illness has evolved throughout time. For an extended period of time they treated mentally ill people inhumanly and experimented on them. Until recent years people have been conducting more research and trying to better understand the illness and find a treatment humanly. Unfortunately, today in America there is not enough funding to better help people who are mentally ill.
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At first people thought that mentally ill people were possessed by demons since religion played a huge factor during these periods of time. Then came the insane asylums, since people and family members did not know what to do and how to treat them, they put them away. If they did not go to an insane asylum, they went to either an almshouse or a prison. During the time spent in an asylum, the mentally ill were mistreated and tortured. Some of the inhumane ways they treated them were by bloodletting, starvation, blistering, purging, surprise baths, and whippings (William, Smith, & Boyle, 2011). They even treated them as entertainment, people would pay a fee to see “baiting the madman”.
One of the most important people to bring awareness to this issue was Dorothea Lynde Dix, which brought awareness to the mistreatment and inhumane ways they treated people who were mentally ill (Vourlekis, Edinburg, & Knee, 1998). In America the first social workers that worked in this field worked in hospitals. However, they only worked in two hospitals which were the Manhattan State Hospital in 1906 and in the Boston Psychopathic Hospital in 1910 (William, Smith, & Boyle, 2011). After World War I, the American Red Cross made it possible for social workers to work in federal hospitals. By January 1920 there are forty-two social service departments in hospitals. Shortly after World War II, the United Stated commissioned social workers (William, Smith, & Boyle, 2011).
The work done by William Healy under the child guidance movement paved way for social work in mental health. With the support of the Commonwealth Fund, the child guidance movement allowed for clinics to be established in Norfolk and St. Louis in the 1920s (William, Smith, & Boyle, 2011). Within the next twenty years social work grew in the mental health field, by both hospitals and clinics. However, after World War II awareness was brought to the United States because of veterans who had mental illnesses and because of this the Mental Health Act of 1946 was made. The act brought upon the need for more training, workers, and research in the field of mental health.
Since then mental illness has become a subject that is widely talked about and now there are thousands of facilities and agencies that help people in this area. With all the progression the United States has done in this area there are still problems that need to be dealt with. One of the issues in this area are the hospitals do not treat at full capacity, instead they treat a small percentage. There are also barely any comprehensive services such as not having enough beds, there is no talk about prevention or transitional housing, there is also no specialized services (William, Smith, & Boyle, 2011). There is not sufficient care is given to people who are diagnosed with a mental illness.
Another issue in this field is there is a huge population of people who suffer from a mental illness and they are homeless (Fires, Fedrock, & Kubiak, 2014). A huge portion of those people are women and children, who run the risk of abuse. This population of people are usually victims rather than criminals yet some still end up in jail. Being in jail leads to them to either becoming suicidal, homicidal, and get mistreated which leads to them contracting a disease. There is not a lot of options for people in this population because of the government.
There is insufficient amount of resources for homeless people. The lack of employment opportunities and income support has become incredibly hard for homeless people to receive and even less for people who have a mental illness (William, Smith, & Boyle, 2011). However, some states such as New York, Ohio, New Jersey, Wisonsin, and Maryland have taken this issue serious and have begun working on to help this population. Though in other states they deem Constitutional rights and liberty more important than getting the help needed for people who are diagnosed with a mental illness (William, Smith, & Boyle, 2011). The only exception to this is if the person is a danger to themselves or to society.
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An issue that hugely impacts this population is the after care once they leave clinics and hospitals. They are not supervised all the time to make sure they are taking their medications. Also, the environment of being stress free could only really be applied in clinics and when they are released, they do not know how to handle every day stressors. Where the clinics and hospitals are located have made some people in the community feel outrage because they do not want to see it, they would rather it be located somewhere else where they don’t deal with it. People want the mentally ill to be treated but would rather not see the hospitals or have it so close to their community.
Even though the treatment and how we see people who are diagnosed with a mental illness have progressed throughout the years, it is still something that needs to be worked out. We have funded and gave more importance to this issue but we have barely scratched the surface in this field. Only within the last century there has been an increase in social workers and services in this field and yet there is still much needed. Mental health is such an important factor that impacts our well being that people take for granted.
- Fries, L., Fedock, G., & Kubiak, S. P. (2014). Role of gender, substance use, and serious mental illness in anticipated postjail homelessness. Social Work Research, 38(2), 107–116. https://doi-org.ezproxy.fiu.edu/10.1093/swr/svu014
- Vourlekis, B. S., Edinburg, G., & Knee, R. (1998). The rise of social work in public mental health through aftercare of people with serious mental illness. Social Work, 43(6), 567–575. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.fiu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=swh&AN=65747&site=ehost-live&scope=site
- William, F. o, Smith, L. L., & Boyle, S. W. (2011). Introduction to Social Work. (pp 155-173) Prentice Hall.
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