Society and Mental Illness

“Nearly 50% of adults experience a mental illness at some point in their lives.” However, only about a fifth of them every try to receive help. In terms of mental illness, one can have a mental disability or simply be displaying traits of a mental illness brought on by extreme situations, such as grief. It is often difficult to distinguish between the two; thus mental illness and mental health are considered as a continuum.

Before, anyone who was considered ‘not mentally stable’ was placed into asylums and institutions. However, within the last few decades there have been developments to “deinstitutionalize” mental hospital patients and try to immerse them in society more. This development, called the Olmstead decision, strives to treat people in community settings. One method of doing so is using family as a form of treatment for outpatients instead of returning to the institution. This way, stronger familial bonds are formed and the mentally ill people become accustomed to being social and less isolated. Yet the Olmstead decision has some very dire downfalls. While some mentally ill people have family or community and home settings, many do not. Because law now prevents people who are not harmful to themselves or to others from being institutionalized, many mentally ill people end up homeless and without help. Studies show that a web of supporters helps people with mental conditions or disabilities manage themselves, so countermeasures have popped up around the country to help those who need it. What I understand is that while society as an institution has left many people out on the street, society (as composed of individuals) is there to help support those with mental disabilities.

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