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James Brody January 14th, 2011 12:29 PM

Mental Health True Stories
- The first community mental health center, built in New Haven in the very early ‘60s, increased the rate of mental illness. Plant a doc and social worker and they will discover pathology and demand more staff.
- There were four reasons that people were put in institutions: Lack of money, lack of family, bizarre conduct, and poor self-care. All four were needed. Fix any one of them and you could roam the streets with your favorite dreams!
- Braginsky and his team found that residents of state hospitals often liked being there. Such residents found jobs, partners, fun, and ways to get cigarettes and liquor while avoiding physicians and psychologists.
- Psychiatry – even fifty years ago – had a foreign medical graduate problem. I remember the Cuban doc smiled a lot but spoke no English and initialed whatever the Nursing Supervisor wrote for him. The Cambodian – a recluse by nature – fretted about excessive intercourse between the patients and advocated a chain-link fence down the center of the tunnels, girls on one side, boys on the other. The Greek liked recipe psychiatry: first give this but later add that to counteract this. My God, what a clever fellow! Patients would be ordered to take as many as four or five medications while smoking and drinking coffee incessantly, or cheeking the meds until they could spit them out. Later research showed that all neuroleptics do the same thing and can be converted to an equivalent dose of a single medication – chlorpromazine. And the most popular psychiatrist? An Irish guy of great humility and persistent good humor who didn’t try to cure everyone in his caseload of 3000.
- The budget was always empty except for drugs: The legislature wanted the patients to get their medicine. Medication dollars could later be transformed by a clever business manager into clothing or heat or Christmas hams for the staff.
- Mental health is a bottomless entitlement. That is, no matter how or what you measure, everyone will desperately need more than you can deliver. And their relatives will haunt your doorway to ensure they get it.

Let’s not do what we’ve already done….

Reference: Braginsky, Benjamin, Braginsky, D., & Ring, K. (1969) Methods of Madness: The Mental Hospital as a Last Resort. NY: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

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