No One Cares About Crazy People: A Book Review

I love a provocative title and Ron Powers’ book, No One Cares About Crazy People, doesn’t disappoint. Today, I’ll share some of the insights that I gained.

In the 60s and 70s, mental health policy changed drastically in the United States. Due to the expense of the Vietnam War, funding was cut for the mental health institutions that tended to the nation’s mentally ill. In 1961, Thomas Szasz published The Myth of Mental Illness, which unfortunately added fuel to the stigma surrounding mentally ill people at the time.

Given the aforementioned budget cuts and the influence of The Myth of Mental Illness, it became a lot harder for mentally ill people to receive treatment.

The major policy change that occurred around this time is that the mentally ill were no longer able to be hospitalized against their will. The rationale related to human rights concerns. As a result, many of the mental health hospitals were closed down with nothing to replace them with… except, you know, jail and homelessness.

It costs ~$50,000/ conviction to jail a mentally ill person whereas  the average mental health treatment cost for the same person would be a mere $2,000-3,000.

We see the consequences of homelessness and incarceration in our communities today.

It’s a broken system, to say the least.

Homelessness and mass incarceration is particularly prevalent among people diagnosed on the schizophrenia spectrum. To the typical civilian, a person with hallucinations and delusions may appear bizarre or, for layman’s purposes, crazy. Most people fixate on the bizarre behavior and never consider that there is a strong correlation between childhood trauma and psychosis. Powers argues that these people need mental health support, not jail.

More recently, we’ve seen an increase in police mistreatment of mentally ill people; more specifically, shootings of people experiencing psychosis. Tragedies like this are happening due to a lack of understanding about mental illness.

Jails and prisons don’t provide quality mental health services if they offer them at all; therefore, when mentally ill people are released, they haven’t been given any new coping skills to prevent the vicious cycle of incarceration and homelessness.

In conclusion

Rehabilitation, i.e., mental health services, are crucial to helping mentally ill people to become functioning members of society with an improved quality of life. Unfortunately, the political climate and the lack of funding for these issues often results in these people being treated as a drain on society who must be hidden away. You can find this book here.

For more information, I recommend listening to Adam Conover’s recent podcast episode, Mass Incarceration, Accountability…

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