The deinstitutionalization movement is the name given to the policy of moving severely mentally ill individuals out of large state institutions and then closing part or all of the institutions. The idea behind deinstitutionalization was that individuals who suffer with mental illness could lead more normal lives in the community then they could confined to an institution. This movement was designed to avoid the problems posed by the inadequacies of hospitalization, to obtain the positive aspects of community living and socialization, and to reduce the costs of treatment. This movement was rendered in hopes that the communities would support the discharged with medications, community outreach support centers, and mental health services. Many problems would develop from this policy.
Let us commence with the community outreach support centers that this policy was to implement. Many of the centers were not built due to monetary reductions, thus creating a mental illness crisis. The discharged individuals from public psychiatric hospitals were not ensured the medication and rehabilitation services necessary for them to live successfully in the community. There was also a lack of readiness for those who would develop a mental illness in the future. Many of the mentally ill patients were left homeless in the streets with some displaying erratic and anomalous behaviors, aggregating apprehensions, stigmas, and discontent in the communities. A countless number of mentally ill patients ended up incarcerated or sent to emergency rooms. This displacement posed a huge burden and quandary on the jail systems.
The communities were not the only ones to suffer. Those who suffered with mental illness were the ones who were ultimately affected. The stigma attached to mental illness is enough for some to not seek the appropriate help that they need. Often times, the communities are reluctant to get involved, discarding and discrediting those who suffer with mental illness. Commonly, those with mental disorders do not have the means or abilities to take care of themselves, relying heavily on state or local centers for help. If the centers are not there to help, where are they to go? Because of deinstitutionalization, there are those, whose world is shattered, on the streets, in jails, or left to fight for their lives.
Was this movement ethical? I am not sure it was. A movement of such high endeavors requires much deliberation, time, and resources. These endeavors should be completed to the fullest, none of which occurred during the implementing of this policy. If the completion of the said endeavors were not possible, a discontinuation of the policy should have been realized. Because of the arbitrary way the policy was carried out, many people and communities endured hardships. Mental illness is a serious and more so than not, chronic condition which often requires psychiatric interventions. With the rise in psychological disorders and mental illnesses, we need to be building more psychiatric facilities not eradicating them. In my opinion, the deinstitutionalization movement was not the answer. I believe that we as a society have an obligation to take a stand in making sure that those who suffer with mental illness have the same opportunities as we do, to lead the best quality of life possible whether it is in the community or in a facility.