The way the mentally ill are treated in America has always troubled me. Discrimination in treatment and shabby services make the mentally ill third class citizens in this country. It's a shameful situation all round that never seems to get better, in part, because it is seen as shameful—to be mentally ill.
Since the discovery of certain psychotropic drugs, some brain chemistry based diseases like depression and schizophrenia's have demonstrated how many mental illnesses are biological in nature just as other somatic diseases like diabetes or hypertension.
And yet, the social stigma, prejudice and discrimination continues -- in social services, housing, and, most egregiously, in financial coverage by insurance companies. Why should insurance companies pay less for prescription drugs and hospital visits or doctor's care for mentally ill patients than that for those suffering from other diseases?
Others write far more eloquently than I on this topic, and some progress has been made in legislating parity in health coverage in some states.
The Village Voice has a riveting article about the New York State Museum's new exhibition, "Lost Cases, Recovered Lives: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic."
"In our society, people—if they think about mental patients at all—they think of them as nameless, faceless, perhaps dangerous people. They don't usually get the opportunity to learn who they are, in all their richness and complexity. But I think, for at least the 12 people whose materials are in the exhibition, that people will get a clearer understanding of who they were as people before they went into the hospital, and what kind of lives that hospitalization interrupted, or actually ended.
I've heard a lot of comments where people were saying, 'Geez, that could've happened to me.' I think that's the major point: that they're human beings too, and they're not so different from me and you."