How the mentally ill are treated

Katherine - posted on 11/04/2010 ( 9 moms have responded )




I know this article is from 4 years ago, but it shocked me. I thought we were over this crap.

Since there isn't enough to be horrified about these days, read this St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation into the abuses taking place in Missouri's mental institutions. Thousands of "mentally retarded and mentally ill people… have been sexually assaulted, beaten, injured and left to die by abusive and neglectful caregivers." The public tends not to find out about this stuff thanks to "secrecy laws, shoddy investigations and ambivalent police and prosecutors." Every year, meanwhile, state officials promise to "do better." Here's what doing better entails:

In 2002, a privately run home in Bolivar let a man's bed sores rot his flesh so badly that he died. Two years earlier, state workers repeatedly and severely beat mentally retarded boys in Marshall…

One mentally retarded man [in a facility near Overland] prone to swallowing things died in November after swallowing an ink pen. The resident, Michael Pallme, was supposed to be watched constantly.

Another patient, Rudy Wallace, died in March from burns so severe his skin began falling off after a worker left him in scalding water.

But those incidents are only a fraction of what has occurred inside the state and private facilities that house more than 11,000 state residents who have the most severe cases of mental retardation, developmental disabilities and mental illness.Now in a country where pundits will applaud one presidential candidate for flying back to Arkansas to execute a functionally-retarded criminal and where another president orders the torture of a mentally-disturbed prisoner so as not to "lose face", maybe this won't come as a surprise, but it should still be intolerable.

Some very cursory searching on Google and Nexis didn't bring up any similar stories about mental institutions in other states, but I'm probably looking in the wrong place. The largest "institutions" in the country nowadays are prisons, which house some 300,000 people with mental disorders, and tend to have poor mental-health services and plenty of abuse to go around. In 2003, Human Rights Watch did a report on prisoners with mental illnesses:

In the most extreme cases, conditions are truly horrific: mentally ill prisoners locked in segregation with no treatment at all; confined in filthy and beastly hot cells; left for days covered in feces they have smeared over their bodies; taunted, abused, or ignored by prison staff; given so little water during summer heat waves that they drink from their toilet bowls…. Suicidal prisoners are left naked and unattended for days on end in barren, cold observation cells. Poorly trained correctional officers have accidentally asphyxiated mentally ill prisoners whom they were trying to restrain.
It doesn't even take "the most extreme cases" to see things are bad. From people who have worked closely on this issue, I've heard plenty of stories of, say, prisoners who simply won't be "officially" classified as mentally ill despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, and will then get written up by guards at the first outburst of strange behavior (say, compulsive masturbating in their cell), leading to a longer prison sentence. Is this likely to make things a) better or b) worse? Yeah, I wonder too.

A summary of the HRW report is here. Among other things, HRW notes that until this country gets serious about the community mental health systems that were supposed to replace mental hospitals after "deinstitutionalization" in the 1960s, prisons will continue to serve as mental institutions of last resort. I'd like to know what effects the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act, passed by Congress in 2004, has had but perhaps it's too early to tell. It also appears that the "war on drugs," the gift that keeps on giving, has disproportionately affected the mentally ill as the prison population continues to expand and expand without end.


Sharon - posted on 11/04/2010




I don't even have to read your article.

I used to work in a care home for semi independent mentally retarded adults. A few were there because their parents paid but a few were wards of the state. A couple had outlived their parents. I loved these guys. They were awesome, had great personalities, and a love for life. I miss them tons. They all had jobs. Simple things like folding pizza boxes or fetching shopping carts in small centers. Some were high enough to take the bus. Very few of them came across purposeful cruelty but it did happen. I felt so bad for the parents when they would come to visit and they would get mobbed by the ones whose parents had passed away. A mom is a mom right? It just SLAMMED home the reality that one day the mom was going to die and her child who wasn't capable of understanding what happened to her would be left behind thinking his/her mom "left them". Some got it, of course but there were a couple who didn't get "death".

I see a "foster mom" who has a couple of retarded kids (young adults) under her care. She drives me insane and I hate her fucking guts. She calls them names. She lets her fat ass lazy kid order them around like slaves. She does too. For a woman without a JOB she has an awful lot of money to spend. I'll give you one guess as to where she gets the money. She dresses in good clothes but not tastefully. The foster kids look like 1970s' refugees complete with ancient highwater bellbottoms. As far as I can tell she meets all their basic needs and doesn't actually hit them, but they are SAD and depressed kids. They were shopping again the other day and the girl with them. She usually has the girl with her, I think because she's easier to control, after the "mom" loaded up her son and the girl with stuff, the son decided that he didn't need to carry his ONE PILLOW, while the girl couldn't see over the stack of shit she was carrying. It was heavy and bulky stuff. You CANNOT talk to this woman. She makes an incident out of everything. She is ALWAYS ignored by us. You can't talk to the kids either. She'll tear them a new ass. I've seen the kids ask for food (they're all skinny as rails, while she's plump and her own son is a lardass) I HATE HER I HATE HER I HATE HER. THIS Is what you get when you put your retarded baby up for adoption people.

I worked for an asshole who liked hiring ex-cons for his roofing company. MOST of them were retarded. He offered to buy their tools and they could pay him back. They jumped on it. Then he gave the tools a TWO HUNDRED PERCENT mark up and deducted it from their wages. He didn't tell them about the markup. He did all kinds of legally cruel things to them. Keeping them in poverty and chained to him. One day he pissed one off and they chased him around the yard with long steel pipe. Myself and the receptionist laughed our asses off. We were half hoping he'd get his head bashed in. The fucker.

Working for the people that I have worked for, I have SEEN the merest glimpse of the WORST cases for retarded cared. Fuck that. If I'm ever brain damaged - just let me fucking die.

Oh happy story? There is a retarded woman who comes to our store. She is as sweet as anything. She's a beautiful person. Her mom is great. I adore them and its a pleasure to stop my work and just chat with her while she gets excited about a betty boop item she's found. She's always running off with some treasure she's found that her mom just "has to buy!" But then she returns with a sad voice saying "mommy says no! she's crazy! this is booyeetiful! I just want it!' But I wonder if her mom is scared of her death and leaving her daughter behind.

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Julie - posted on 11/05/2010




I am not surprised. The mental health system is abhorrent, even if you have health insurance. The few good doctors and nurses are so over-worked they get burned out and everyone else sucks.

From personal experience, the system, the facilities, the support staff and the administrators are so far less than ideal that it's a joke. I cannot even imagine what a facility for "undesirables"
would be like.

Too few people realize the brain is an organ, too. When it is not working properly, it (and the patient) needs treatment, not ridicule or abandonment.

[deleted account]

I can't handle stuff like this, it breaks my heart to hear how anyone could hurt another human being, when its there job to protect and care for them not fucking treat them like this.

Sharon i admire you,your post was so helpful apart from were it shows the sad side,what i admire about the post is it shows how we need to see the person and not the problem, when it comes to children and adults with mental illness.:-)

Katherine - posted on 11/05/2010




I too have worked with the mentally ill. In fact my brother is schizophrenic. I plan on taking care of him when my parents are gone. If I can help it he won't go into a home. Maybe AFC, but not a mental facility.

Krista - posted on 11/05/2010




And Tara, thank you so much for quoting that. It seems like the sentiment behind that quote has been all but forgotten, hasn't it?

Krista - posted on 11/05/2010




Sharon, that's what scares me too...especially where I'm an "older" mom. What if my second child has major developmental difficulties? I won't always be around to protect them from those animals who would prey on the weak.

I don't believe in Heaven or Hell, but sometimes I wish there WAS a Hell, and if there was, that those bastards who abuse the vulnerable would go there and suffer.

Tara - posted on 11/05/2010




Horrendous and shameful.
""Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The US has repeatedly marginalized their weak, their ill and their dispossessed. This is yet another example of a mentality that ignores the plights of its most vulnerable societal members in favour of cost reduction and profit. The idea always being to provide the least amount of care of the least amount of money, so as not to "waste" anything on people that will not contribute to the progress of the American way. Sad...
Canada isn't much better but we certainly don't have near the deaths as the US.

[deleted account]

The most vulnurable among us should be the most protected and it makes me so sad to hear stories where they're not, where they're abused and mistreated. I just don't understand how cruel people get into health care or become caregivers like that. My mom and her family all work in health care, and my aunt (besides being a nurse) also took care of a few severely retarded and disabled kids. We also took care of my great-grandparents who had alzheimers, at home. It sickens me to think that, had they been with someone else, they could have been mistreated. What kind of human being could do that to another? I'll never understand.

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