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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
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6  Figure 7  Figure 8  Figure 9  Figure 10  Figure 11  Figure 12  Figure 13  Figure 14  Figure 15  Figure 16  Figure 17

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"I ran blindly, frantically. Branches cut across my face, brambles tore at my legs, grass entangled my feet. My breath came in short gasps. The insane monster followed me close behind -- drew nearer, ever nearer -- and drove me to exert my last ounce of strength.


"Twice I fell; twice I recovered and ran on, barely ahead of that hairy hand. Just when I thought I was about to reach the gate that would release me towards home, I ran headlong into a high brick wall. I had lost my direction. I was a mile from the nearest building. I was stranded and alone in the very deepest part of the woods behind the asylum -- with a madman crashing through the brush a few yards behind me. I clawed desperately at the brick wall and struggled to reach its top. Bleeding and tortured for breath, I fell back whimpering, burying my face in my arms. I could do no more.


"The madman drew up beside me. I felt his hot breath. I knew just how his fang-like teeth would feel as they pierced my neck. His hairy hand groped forward and tapped my arm. He spoke. His voice was harsh -- terrifying.


"'YOU'RE IT,' he said, 'now it's your turn to chase me!'"


The speaker's voice had risen to a crescendo on "You're it." The moment's silence which followed was broken by thirty-two relieved sighs from thirty-two young throats. Then there were gales of laughter.


This story, told to a group of ten-year-old boys at a Hallowe'en party in 1926, no doubt made a lasting impact on their minds. For many of them, it must have been their first conscious impression of an "insane" or "crazy" person -- a person who is mentally ill. Since then, those boys have been bombarded with many others. From the newspapers, they have gained the impression that all mental patients are "sex maniacs" or "dangerous lunatics." From the movies has come the suggestion that all patients are either amnesia victims or defiant, homicidal paranoids. Family and friends have passed on to them the idea that mental patients are horrible creatures, something less than human, to be avoided at all costs.


In a way, the boys who heard the above story were fortunate. The "raving maniac" who only wanted to play tag is a much more accurate characterization of a mental patient than can be had from the papers, the movies or most uninformed people. Even this characterization is woefully inadequate, of course.


Nearly all of those boys who heard the story twenty years ago are still getting along with an inadequate, infantile understanding of mental patients. They still refer to sick people as "insane" or "crazy." Like most American citizens, they are still ignorant of the nation's number-one health problem.


For mental illness is our greatest health problem! It is eating away at our national vitality and strength, sapping the very life blood from our veins, and endangering all our hopes and aspirations. Still we remain complacent and uninformed.


Figures alone cannot record the toll which mental illness takes in this country, but facts and authoritative estimates indicate that mental illness:


-- fills forty-five percent of all the hospital beds in the country with its more than 600,000 incapacitated victims.


-- sends over 175,000 persons to the hospital each year.


-- costs us $300,000,000 a year for direct care.


-- costs us over a billion dollars a year in lost earning power.


-- causes inestimable loss through unhappiness, misery, broken homes, shattered careers and inefficient people.


In spite of these facts, we are still playing ostrich. We are still hiding our heads in the sand and refusing to look this great national problem in the face. The six hundred thousand citizens who reside in our mental hospitals today are truly "out of sight, out of mind." This book is the story of these forgotten thousands.


One of the boys who heard the Hallowe'en story twenty years ago is partly responsible for the writing of this book. He did not remain ignorant. For two years he worked in a mental hospital. He came to know intimately several hundred so-called "crazy" people, and he discovered that they are just like other people. He found that each patient in a mental hospital has emotions and ideas, likes and dislikes, hopes and fears. He found that each one is an individual personality, humorous or pathetic, mischievous or helpful, loving or hateful.


He also discovered that many mental patients live in conditions and under circumstances unlike those endured by any other group of people in the country. He began to wonder if those conditions alone were not enough to drive almost any person "out of his mind." He wrote a report about some of the things he personally witnessed. That report is the basis of one of the sixty-three factual, eyewitness accounts of life in mental hospitals which compose the following chapters.


Over two thousand similar reports were used in the preparation of this book. Every person depicted is a real person; every place described is a real place; every event recorded actually occurred -- and they all took place in mental hospitals in the United States within the last five years, 1942-46.

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