Wednesday, September 24, 2008

There were a lot of institutions

Yesterday I received an email from a friend. She talked about remembering some of the Missouri mental institutions from her growing up. She saw them from afar. She lived in St. Joseph. She knew about the institution there.

We talked about which one was #1, #2 and so on. I couldn't remember them all either. It has been a long time.

But that conversation made me think about what's happening to mentally ill people today. Many of them are just as warehoused, though the institutions are different. I went to Amazon.com and looked up books on mental illness, especially a book called The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic. If you want to see something of what that book is about, go to--

http://suitcaseexhibit.org/indexhasflash.html

My next Roy Rogers book, The Body on the Hospital Landing, takes Roy into the attic of the Sunrise State Hospital. I was never in the attic where I grew up, and as I wrote the book, I didn't go back to the Willard site. I didn't want it to influence me. But now that the Landing book is done, I have gone back and been truly moved again.

"People are more important than things." That's what the little man used to say. It doesn't matter what those people's struggles might be, people are still more important than things. The treatment of the mentally ill is a human rights issues, one of the most neglected, even today. Prisons house tens of thousands of mentally ill people who have never been given a chance because they never had humane treatment of their illness.

I'm not a crusader, just a story teller, but I'm here to tell you, we must NOT forget the mentally ill.

PS As I write this, my own town Columbia, Missouri, has lost one of its emergency treatment facilities for the mentally ill, a ward in a local hospital. People facing what I would call sudden-onset mental illness, the kind of mental illness where a loved one needs treatment right now, don't have as many alternatives in my town right now.

If you would like to respond to this post, please leave a comment or go to my web site where there is an email address. Thanks.

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