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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Creator: Frank L. Wright, Jr. (author)
Date: 1947
Publisher: National Mental Health Foundation, Inc.
Source: Available at selected libraries
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Copyrighted and published by the National Mental Health Association, no part of this document may be reproduced without written consent.




We Americans cannot justly be proud of the way we have dealt with our nation's most important health problem. Mental disorders affect more of us than cancer, tuberculosis and infantile paralysis combined. Severe mental illness fills forty-five percent of all hospital beds in the country with its victims. Yet most of us have been sadly unaware of its extent, falsely confident that adequate care is generally available, and blindly indifferent to its disastrous effects, both social and economic, upon our national life.


Mr. Wright's forceful book cannot fail to shock us, to awaken us, to impel us to action. It is not pleasant reading, for it deals realistically with exceptionally unpleasant facts. Nevertheless, Americans should read it, for unless these facts are faced frankly, and the problem solved satisfactorily, many thousands of mentally handicapped persons will continue to be "out of sight, out of mind."


No one should doubt the authenticity of this book. As chairman of the National Mental Health Foundation, I am acquainted personally with many of the problems upon which Mr. Wright seeks to focus public attention and concern. I am convinced that the picture his book presents is a true one, and that the persons, places and events described, though necessarily disguised, are real and undistorted.






With considerable humility and trepidation, I agreed to undertake the responsibility of writing this book. At my hand was the greatest wealth of factual material about conditions in mental hospitals that had ever been gathered in one place. At my back were hundreds of people who had submitted their experiences in mental hospitals to the National Mental Health Foundation, in the hope and faith that their reports would ultimately benefit mental patients. In my heart were thousands of mental patients and their families, many of whom I had come to know personally, whose anguish and bafflement knew no bounds. And in my mind were the millions of Americans who know so little, and therefore care so little, about those forgotten thousands who are in our mental hospitals.


I saw my task as that of acquainting uninformed millions with forgotten thousands through the eyes of concerned hundreds. In short, I wrote this book in an effort to bring mental patients and their problems into the light so that everyone could see and know them -- so that they would no longer be Out of Sight, Out of Mind.


I have finished that task now, and you are about to be introduced to mental patients and mental hospitals within these pages. You will find herein a number of graphic incidents, each a short-short story or character sketch unto itself, each undeniably true and accurate, each representing hundreds of similar incidents that are occurring all over this country today, and each giving you some new insight into the problems of mental patients and mental hospitals. All of these incidents have been selected from over two thousand documented, first-hand, on-the-scene reports of actual experiences in the files of the National Mental Health Foundation.


You will be unable to identify any persons or places in this book. If you are at all familiar with mental hospitals, you may recognize the prototypes of many old friends, for there are hundreds of doctors, nurses, attendants and patients who might well be the principles in the incidents included. But no one person, no one place, no one event can be definitely identified by anyone. Names of persons and places, as well as certain identifying details, have been altered for purposes of publication, just as faces of patients have been blacked out in the photographs. Nevertheless, I hope you will know that it is real flesh and blood which you are meeting in these pages.


To acknowledge even a fraction of those who have contributed to the writing of this book would take many pages and make very dull reading. I can only mention those conscientious objectors who served without pay in our nation's mental hospitals during the war and those citizens who supported and encouraged them. Except for these two groups, this book would never have been conceived and could never have materialized. I am confident that all of these, plus the many others who have participated in the development of this book, will be amply rewarded if these pages can in any way benefit those thousands who face the prospect of life in a mental hospital.


FRANK L. WRIGHT, JR. Baltimore, Maryland. April, 1947


Opening A Long-closed Door


"One dark night in October, I took a short-cut through the asylum grounds in order to reach my home as quickly as possible. I had gone through the grounds often when I was in a hurry, but I never went again after that night.


"Just as I drew near the big, gabled building -- near enough to hear the shrieks and groans and crazy laughter that came from the darkened hallways -- a great hulk of a man, clothed only in pajamas, stepped out from the shadows. He took one look and started for me, one hairy hand outstretched. Visions of Dracula, Frankenstein and The Monster assailed me from every side, and stories of the madmen of every generation raced through my mind. I turned and plunged blindly into the woods behind the asylum.

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