Rewriting due to WordPress eating this post.
Forty years ago, the seriously mentally ill were put into long-term facilities. These places have all closed down, much to the relief of many who were abused in them. In place of these institutions the system follows the ‘community model’.
The community model sounds like a good idea – keeping the mentally ill in their own homes to reduce stigma and encourage normal lifestyles. But the idea is badly flawed. The severely mentally ill often cannot care for themselves.
With these very unwell patients, two options develop. One is that they are committed to inpatient care in the acute hospital units. When I was last in there some of the patients had been there a year or more – in the places meant for urgent, acute need.
The second option is that their long-suffering families care for them. This can be intense, and is often difficult, as the family realise that their loved one is severely unwell and needs constant care. It puts the family under a lot of strain, but they’re the only thing standing between their loved one and the rarely-acknowledged third option: falling through the cracks. This has the potential to end in tragedy.
The old system was badly flawed. It was rife with abuse, and it didn’t fit the needs of many mental health patients. However, the new system is equally flawed, and it is failing many mental health patients as well. Maybe a combination of both would be better.