The community's response to mentally ill people

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7079.458 (Published 15 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:458

Can be improved

  1. Sam Sussman, Director of social servicesa
  1. a London and St Thomas Psychiatric Hospital, St Thomas, Ontario N5P 3VP, Canada

    All societies have struggled with the impact of mental illness, and rejection and avoidance of mentally disabled people are common. Even when the mad have been accorded a place of honour, as in cultures that believe mentally ill people have been touched by the Great Spirit, they have remained outside the group and have been feared. Today this fear continues to obstruct moves towards caring more humanely for mentally ill people in the community. Many of those fears are unfounded and others may be allayed by sensible policy making.

    Modern day psychiatry is empirically driven and biochemically oriented. After 400 years of development and reform many would say that, with all their flaws, psychiatric institutions provide relief and treatment to their patients. This judgment contrasts sharply with the anachronistic brouhaha of civil libertarians and the “consumer-survivor movement.” Community care …

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