The Treatment of Mental Illness Sociology Help

The Treatment of Mental Illness

In Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault (1988/ 1961) examined the "archaeology of madness" from 1500 to 1800 to determine how ideas of mental illness have changed over time and to describe thc "birth of the asylum:' According to Foucault. early in this period insanity was considered part of 'everyday life. and people with mental illnesses were free to walk the streets; however. beginning with the Renaissance and continuing into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. the mentally ill were viewed as a threat to others. During that time. asylums were built. and a clear distinction was drawn between the "insane" and the rest of humanity. According to Foucault (1988/1961: 252). people came to see "madness" as a minority status that does not have the right to autonomy: Madness is childhood. Everything at the [asylum] is organized so that the insane are transformed into minors. They are regarded as children who have an overabundance of strength and make dangerous use of it. They must he given immediate punishments and rewards; whatever Is remote has no effect on them. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, many people with mental disorders do not receive professional treatment However, mental dIsorders-partIcularly substance-related ones (due to alcohol and other drug Abuse)-nre the leading cause of hospitalization
for men between the ag"s of ct then and forty-lour,and the second leading cause (after childbirth) for women in that age group (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, .Woo). .Many people seeking psychiatric assistance arc treated with medications or psychotherapy-which is believed to help patients understand the underlying reasons for their problem-and sometimes treatment in psychiatric wards of local hospitals or in private psychiatric hospitals. However. the introduction of
new psychoactive drugs to treat mental disorders and the deinstitutionalization movement in the 1960s have created dramatic changes in how people with mental
disorders are treated. DdllstitlltionqJization refers to the practice of rapidly discharging patients from , mental hospitals into the community. Originally devised
as a solution for the problem of "housing" mentally ill patients in large, prison-like mental hospitals in the first half of the twentieth century, deinstitutionalization
is now viewed as the problem by many social scientists. The theory behind this process was that patients' rights were being violated because many patients experienced involuntary commitment (i.e., without their consent) to the hospitals, where they remained for extended periods of time. Instead, some professionals believed that the patients' mental disorders could be controlled with proper medications and treatment from community-based mental health services. Advocates of institutionalization also believed that this practice would relieve the stigma attached to mental illness and hospitalization. However. critics of
deinstitutionalization argue that this process exacerbated l0l!g-term problems associated with inadequate care for people with mental illness,Admitting people to mental hospitals 011 an involuntary basis ("involuntary commitment") has always
been controversial; however, it remains the primary method by which police officers.judges, social workers, and other officials deal with people-particularly the home clcss=-whom they have reason to believe are mentally ill and imminently dangerous to others if not detained (Monacan, 1992).State mental hospitals continue to provide most of .he chronic inpatient care for poor people with mental illnesses; these institutions tend to serve as a revolving door to poverty-level boardand- care homes, nursing homes, or homelessness, as contrasted with the situation of patients who pay their bills at private psychiatric facilities through private insurance coverage or Medicare (Brown, 1985). According to the sociologist Erving GotTman (1961a). mental hospitals arc a classic example of a total institution, previously defined as a place where people arc Isolated from the rest of society lor a period of time and come under the complete control of the officials who run the institution.

Posted on September 8, 2014 in HEALTH CARE AND DISABILITY

Share the Story

About the Author

Back to Top
Share This