3 thoughts on “From Asylums to Recovery

  1. Excellent documentation on these historical facts on asylums, the treatment of human lives and those who have made advanced strides to promote awareness and change. I thoroughly enjoyed considering this information. Thanks for sharing!

  2. We all know about the liberation of mental patients. That happened back in the ‘60’s. Large state hospitals were emptied and closed. The stiffest mental health laws in the country and the world were instituted. These laws, however, are not enforced on behalf of the new patients, who are denied access to the courts.

    The rights of mental patients are protected by federal law, which requires a state protection and advocacy system. California law additionally requires rights advocates at the county level. They exist and are paid millions of taxpayer dollars. Yet, both sets of organizations deliberately turn a blind eye to the abuses and even the existence of the largest class of clients.

    The rights of mental patients were advocated in the ‘60’s because of widespread publication of the abhorrent conditions in state mental hospitals. Now, however, patients are subject to the worst abuses as outpatients. Photographs would not communicate them. The news media, too, has turned a blind eye.

    The first rule of public relations is to consider who is speaking. Who is speaking determines how the hearer will respond to the message. The new patients cannot say who they are. They have no identity. They are silenced.

    The laws instituted to protect patients have actually become instruments of oppression. Tales of abuse are not believed, because patients obviously have rights. If they haven’t got rights, they must not be patients.

    The new outpatients are monitored using surveillance. Any social group that they enter, their complaints of abuse and involuntary treatment are derided as delusions and symptoms of mental illness. They are coerced to seek treatment for their “illness” voluntarily. Anyone who is ignorant of what is going on is pulled over to the side of the ones chanting this loud mantra.

    The same surveillance that monitors the new patients prevents them from ever meeting one another, though they number in the tens of thousands in this San Francisco alone. Confidentiality laws, intended to protect them, prevent them from finding one another or even learning of their own identity. They cannot organize to fight for their rights. They are powerless. Exposed, their vulnerability is exploited to the fullest. Every wrong is committed against them because it is wrong, in hopes of provoking them to violence, so that revenge may quickly be taken. Revenge for what? For being who they are.

    It began in 2001. Some planes, some buildings in New York City, a change in the surveillance law, an authorization to use military force. Applications for involuntary treatment orders in San Francisco – 3,000 miles away! – shot up by a factor of 19 and continued to rise. From two per week to ten per day, more than non-traffic misdemeanors in recent years, closing in on felony complaints. Somehow, one judge handles all of this caseload, which would take over seven of his colleagues in the criminal department. How does he do it? Hypotheses: Ex parte, in camera procedures; No witnesses, no evidence; All records sealed; The existence of records sealed – completely sealed cases; No one can even find out the cases exist, least of all their hapless subjects, but they show up on the court statistics still, as a single number. 37,000 people in San Francisco! 4% of the population! One San Franciscan in 25 has been subject to an involuntary treatment order – and perhaps still is – in this century. They are *invisible*!

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