May is Mental Health Month, a good time to remember the ten million adult Americans who suffer from a serious mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Without proper treatment, psychiatric disorders put an enormous strain on affected individuals, family members and on society at large.
In the mid-1950s, state mental hospitals housed about a half a million people with mental illness. Many held patients against their will for decades in understaffed and deteriorating wards.
Today, most of those hospitals have been shuttered; the ones remaining hold fewer than 50,000 patients.
Taking people out of psychiatric institutions would have marked an extraordinary leap in social progress, if only it had been accompanied by a proportionate and continuing public investment in community-based mental health care. Instead, we now have a public system of mental health care that is fragmented and grossly underfunded.Continue reading…