Feature Writer John Christie – Advocates for the Disabled Try to Improve the Mental Hospitals Throughout the World

Mental Asylums live on in some parts of the world. For instance, in Guatemala City, Donald Rodas, a man in his late twenties with paranoid schizophrenia murdered his parents a year ago and was placed in a psychiatric hospital. He was charged with the crime. At the hospital, he roamed the halls freely and saw patients charged with crimes mixed in with ordinary patients and the developmentally disabled. He also sees patients who don’t take their medication and are beaten and placed in a barren isolation cell. Women also sell their bodies for as little as a dollar to afford the basic necessities.

The United States began emptying out its vast asylum system in the 1960s. While it was in existence, it was filled with abuse and neglect. It emptied out 90% of the people who lived in the institutions and had them go into a community based care system. However, the funding for community based care couldn’t match the influx of people coming out of the institutions. This led to the widespread problem of homelessness and jails and prisons for the mentally ill.

However, in much of the world, the warehousing of the mentally ill is more the norm than the exception. They live in dirty, overcrowded wards and electroshock treatment is given without the patient’s consent.

Disability Rights International based in Washington, D.C. is trying to change all this. For instance, Paraguay reduced its mental hospital population by almost half by setting up group homes for these people. 130 countries have also ratified a treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities. This treaty states that the disabled should not be segregated from society. This treaty also states that countries should move from centralized asylums to community based care.

Through a lot of pressure, Guatemala has pledged to have a pilot program of group homes for the mentally ill and disabled. They will also reduce the mental hospital population by a significant amount in two years. A global effort will also take place throughout the world to reduce the population in these hospitals. If that doesn’t work, human rights law will be used to compel action.

The mental hospitals weren’t all that bad in the United States. Patients got to know other patients and there were activities for the patients during the day. In addition, they were also fed well. Patients also kept up a garden for the individual hospital. The patients from what I heard were treated well.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/opinion/sunday/where-mental-asylums-live-on.html?_r=1&

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