American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System
E. Fuller Torrey (Author)
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DescriptionIn 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered an historic speech on mental illness and retardation. He described sweeping new programs to replace "the shabby treatment of the many millions of the mentally disabled in custodial institutions" with treatment in community mental health centers. This movement, later referred to as "deinstitutionalization," continues to impact mental health care. Though he never publicly acknowledged it, the program was a tribute to Kennedy's sister Rosemary, who was born mildly retarded and developed a schizophrenia-like illness. Terrified she'd become pregnant, Joseph Kennedy arranged for his daughter to receive a lobotomy, which was a disaster and left her severely retarded. Fifty years after Kennedy's speech, E. Fuller Torrey's book provides an inside perspective on the birth of the federal mental health program. On staff at the National Institute of Mental Health when the program was being developed and implemented, Torrey draws on his own first-hand account of the creation and launch of the program, extensive research, one-on-one interviews with people involved, and recently unearthed audiotapes of interviews with major figures involved in the legislation. As such, this book provides historical material previously unavailable to the public. Torrey examines the Kennedys' involvement in the policy, the role of major players, the responsibility of the state versus the federal government in caring for the mentally ill, the political maneuverings required to pass the legislation, and how closing institutions resulted not in better care - as was the aim - but in underfunded programs, neglect, and higher rates of community violence. Many now wonder why public
mental illness services are so ineffective. At least one-third of the homeless are seriously mentally ill, jails and prisons are grossly overcrowded, largely because the seriously mentally ill constitute 20 percent of prisoners, and public facilities are overrun by untreated individuals. As Torrey argues, it is imperative to understand how we got here in order to move forward towards providing better care for the most vulnerable.
Oxford University Press, USA
October 01, 2013
6.2 X 9.3 X 0.9 inches | 1.05 pounds
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About the Author
E. Fuller Torrey is Executive Director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Chevy Chase, MD, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, and Professor of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
"For a few days in September--after a psychotic gunman killed 12 people in Washington's Navy Yard--we were forced to ask ourselves, yet again, how we treat the seriously mentally ill in America and whether we need to rethink our policies and assumptions. No one is better equipped to address those questions than E. Fuller Torrey." --Sally Satel, Wall Street Journal
"This is a powerful book on how to prevent the high profile tragedies that galvanize national attention, and the thousands of other tragedies that pass under the radar. I highly recommend it to all advocates and policymakers who care about mental illness."
"This wise and unflinching book is an object lesson in good intentions gone awry on a grand scale. It should be widely read." --New York Times
"An important book by a refreshingly candid author who shares his vast knowledge in the interests of the needy." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Torrey is the conscience of the country and its most articulate spokesperson when it comes to public mental health care. His latest installment, American Psychosis, is a scathing analysis of the abject failure of U.S. mental health care policy written in his usual lucid and compelling style. Torrey is the Dorthea Dix of our time." -- Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, President Elect, American Psychiatric Association; Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; and Director, New York State Psychiatric Institute
"The first time I heard Torrey speak at a meeting of psychiatrists I was so offended I got up and left. Five years later I realized that everything he had said was true. This book will, I believe, offend many people; hopefully it will take them less time to recognize the truth of what Torrey has written." -- Alan A. Stone, MD, Former President of the American Psychiatric Association, Touroff-Glueck Professor of Law and Psychiatry in the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Medicine, Harvard University
"Torrey's superb new book is a devastating indictment of America's mental health 'system, ' a story of good intentions gone disastrously awry. Torrey combines a deep professional knowledge of severe mental illness with an unparalleled understanding of the politics and policy of mental health. His lively writing weaves together powerful and poignant examples of the problem with hard-headed and yet compassionate solutions to one of America's greatest public policy tragedies." -- Stuart M. Butler, PhD, Distinguished Fellow and Director, Center for Policy Innovation, The Heritage Foundation
"With persuasive facts and gripping, tragic examples, Torrey documents what state psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, and jails have in common: millions of seriously mentally ill people treated inhumanely and inadequately, causing deterioration in the care of the most vulnerable. He examines the lessons learned from mental illness service programs over the past 50 years and concludes that we should greatly expand the best, such as proven programs in Wisconsin and New York City, and eliminate the worst, such as for-profit mental illness providers like nursing and board and care homes. American Psychosis is an unprecedented, invaluable elaboration of how to alter a national tragedy." -- Sidney M. Wolfe, MD, Public Citizen Health Research Group, Co-author of Worst Pills, Best Pills, and Editor, WorstPills.org
"Vintage Torrey: Comprehensive, deep, and thoughtful; biting and to the point; yet hopeful and hoping for change." -- John A. Talbott, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine
"The author successfully weaves in political, social, and medical influences of the time, permitting readers to comprehend the challenges faced during this period. It is clear the author has a passion for this subject, and he provides solid conclusions that should leave readers wondering when, if not now, is the appropriate time to overhaul the system once again." -Steven T. Herron, MD, Doody's Health Sciences Book Review