Monday, October 3, 2016

Failure in Illinois

Several clients at Elgin Mental Health Center are being transferred to other Illinois Department of Human Services facilities. This is necessary because the Illinois Department of Corrections has commandeered Elgin's Dix and Jenks clinical units for "treatment" of convicted felons.

In the reception area at Elgin there is a fancy bronze plaque which attempts to define for the public what is being done with their tax dollars. It insists, more or less, "This is a hospital where many come to find physical, mental and spiritual restoration and true recovery."

I've been in and out of this hospital on a weekly basis for longer than a majority of the employees there have been on the IDHS payroll. I've never met a "patient" at Elgin who does not recognize that despite what the plaque in the lobby says, he or she is really serving time. They may learn to think of themselves as "patients" (although "consumer" and "recipient of services" are probably preferred nomenclature). But they also almost invariably talk about the amount of time they've been given, as though psychiatric commitment were a criminal sentence.

Clinical staff at Elgin frequently stress the crime a patient committed, as well as the judicial process which has effective seniority over their curative endeavors. For these doctors judges decide when their patients may be released, even though these judges explicitly defer to doctors on what should be done with their criminal defendants.

In short, the supposed distinction between criminality and mental illness is problematic and getting more problematic every day, especially when Elgin Mental Health Center is becoming part-Department-of-Human-Services, part-Department-of-Corrections.

Elgin is a venerable, even an historic institution, built at the end of the 19th century with the inspired purpose to treat crazy people more humanely. Its forensic patients today are not considered culpable for any violent crimes they perpetrated -- they couldn't really help it, they weren't really responsible -- because their mental illness made them do it. The modern, rational thing to do is cure the disease-like-any-other mental illness, not punish the innocent, unfortunate, sick person.

Soon there will be a dramatic, literally glaring demonstration that this whole idea is bullshit, as described so ably by Bruce Levine, Ph.D..

Elgin Mental Health Center, the hospital that helps people, will soon sport two newly built gun shacks, guard towers with flood lights, and a ten-foot-high razor-wire fence. It's an easy bet that the general public will not recognize these additions as symbols of a benevolent healing enterprise. Rather, they'll be reminded that all mental patients are probably dangerous and all criminals are probably insane. Criminality and mental illness: same-same.

Society reacts, always has reacted, and always will react, essentially the same way to people we dislike and people we fear. It's just not a medical issue, unless medicine itself is punitive.

Modern psychiatry was a punitive dead end. We should dump it.

1 comment:

  1. It is like a rapist kissing his victim and telling her he loves her and was it good for her, too.