David was a faculty member in the Political Science department of a prestigious college when it became obvious that something was wrong. His mood swings, always a personality characteristic, intensified beyond recognition. During an acute manic episode he was taken by ambulance to a hospital, a locked psychiatric care facility.
He was hospitalized for two weeks and given several psychotropic drugs –Seroquel, Depakote and others — in large doses. Most other patients were considered chronic, long-term cases. Everyone was receiving medication, and a few people were getting electroshock therapy.
When David was evaluated as “stabilized” enough to return home, his parents picked him up. He left the hospital with three prescriptions and a weekly appointment with the doctor who had been assigned to him. His doctor told him that his illness was incurable and that he would need to take medications for the rest of his life if he was to avoid being hospitalized again – and again.
How hungry would you have to be to steal a loaf of bread? And yet those who are homeless and living on the streets, more than half of whom are mentally ill, will be jailed if they do. Once in jail, treatment is scarce and heavily dependent on medications.
The Industrial Revolution may have been instrumental in increasing the number of “lost souls.” By the late 1880s, it was like today – so clearly awful that a reform movement was in full swing. Fast forward seventy or eighty years to the 1950s and ‘60s, and a new reform is blooming fast, fueled this time by the just developed psychotropic medications. It looked like at last we were on to something big.
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