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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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The way in which we treat our mental patients is very important. We must be concerned.


It Couldn't Happen to Me!


One other avenue of escape still offers itself. We can seek refuge in our own immunity and isolation. We can assert: "It couldn't happen to me!"


The chaplain of a large state hospital told the members of a men's club about conditions in mental hospitals. At the end of the talk, the chairman remarked: "This is a tragic picture our guest has painted for us. Of course, such disaster does not befall men like you and me, but still -- " The city's most distinguished banker arose from his seat and interrupted the chairman. "Excuse me, sir," he said, "but I have been unusually moved by our speaker's remarks. I want to tell you something now which I have never spoken of before. Twenty years ago when I first came to this city, I had just spent two years as a patient in a mental hospital." Before the meeting adjourned, four other men had told of their own experiences "out of sight, out of mind."


No one can be certain that he is safe from the specter of mental illness. It lays its hand on rich and poor, high and low, young and old, men and women, intelligent and ignorant. No class or creed, no race or clan is beyond its reach. There is a chance that any one of us may sometime be brought face to face with the conditions reported in earlier chapters of this book.


In fact, the chance is not so very remote. At the present rate, the experts tell us, one out of every twenty persons who reach age fifteen in this country will have to spend a part of his or her life in a mental hospital. Just to make that figure mean something, recall how many members there are in your church or lodge or community. Or remember how many people you saw at the movie the other night. One hundred? The chances are that five of them will be patients in mental hospitals at some time before they die. Three hundred? Fifteen patients. One out of every twenty is a figure worth remembering. You could be the one!


But the prospect of coming face to face with the inside of a mental hospital is even closer than that. Besides yourself, there are your mother, father, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends. We are told that one out of every five families will be affected by mental illness. One out of every five! How many families are there in your block?


These facts will not allow us to view conditions in mental hospitals disinterestedly, without concern. The threat of mental illness comes too close to home for that. We ourselves, our loved ones or our friends might well become the one out of twenty. Shall we be satisfied to allow ourselves or them to meet the situations described in this book? Certainly we cannot stand apart and say with any real assurance, "It couldn't happen to me."


There is no easy escape from the impact of conditions in mental hospitals. We would like to dodge, or to justify, or to evade. But our efforts are futile. The conditions reported in earlier sections of this book are true. They are important -- not only for those of us who are or will become mentally ill, but for every person in the country.


Throughout history the problem of the mentally ill has been dodged. We have continually avoided mental patients -- we have segregated them, ostracized them, turned our backs on them, tried to forget them. We have allowed intolerable conditions to exist for the mentally ill through our ignorance and indifference. We can no longer afford to disregard their needs, to turn a deaf ear to their call for help. We must come face to face with the facts.


In this country, over ninety-seven percent of all mental patients are cared for in government-operated hospitals -- city, county, state or federal. Therefore, you and I are the ones who pay the bills through our taxes; we are the ones who allow such conditions to exist through our legislators and representatives. Confronted with such facts, we the people of the United States cannot be indifferent. We may try to escape the facts, but when we face them we are impelled to give the sympathetic and understanding aid which we have given to other needy sections of mankind. And so we ask --


What Can We Do?


The most urgent needs of particular mental hospitals vary from one community to another, but there are some general things which every citizen can be doing -- now. Everyone can learn more, serve more, give more, and influence more.


Let's Learn More


There was a time, not so long ago, when we were as ignorant and uninformed about tuberculosis as we now are about mental illness. It was considered a disgrace to have "T.B." in the family, and the unlucky victims were hidden away while their disease became worse and more ingrained. Now we recognize tuberculosis as a serious disease; we provide quick and adequate treatment for it; and we are learning how to prevent it. Medical science alone did not accomplish this progress. An informed and cooperative citizenry was essential in controlling tuberculosis.

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