According to Oxford dictionary, mental health is defined as “a persons condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well being” (Mental Health). Mental health is important at all stages of life. From early childhood to late adulthood. An individuals mental health is always developing, changing and at time can be deteriorating. In the modern 21st century, it can be considered common to recognize mental health as an regular health check up. However, prior to the the 1960’s mental health was a taboo subject and what it entailed was not clearly defined.
The time of the 1960’s was a period in which ideas and values were changing. The Vietnam war had a majority of Americans involved. Whether that be on the front lines, or watching it televised. It became the war in which changed the concept of mental health. The beginning of the 1960’s was considered the golden age. With John F. Kennedy as the president, the American people felt it as a time of new age and development. This same idea quickly turned with the assassination of the president in November of 1963.
The event traumatized the American public. At that time, it was the first publication, gruesome event caught on American television. Leaving the public in mourning, Lyndon B. Johnson became the new president and focused his career on giving lower class Americans the opportunity to be just as successful as those in the upper classes. New policies like Medicare, Medicaid and Job corps were created. However, the helping hand and its full force behind it did not last long. By 1964, the “ War on Poverty” was to expensive to fund along within the war in Vietnam.
Congress had allowed Johnson to increase U.S. involvement in Vietnam to “all necessary measures” (Vietnam war) to help our allies and soldiers in the fight against communism in Vietnam. It was the first time in American history that we did not just send military and aid. News reporters and all media outlets were sent to record as much footage as they could to show those at home the crisis of communism in Vietnam. The war continued until approximately 1973. As soldier came home, there were a noted differences in behavior and character.
As soldiers came home, many experienced symptoms such as dissociation, inability to adapt back to civilian life and flashbacks to their time back in Vietnam. For many, the mental distress it created led those to fall into alcoholism. It drastic cases it lead to suicide. It wasn’t until 1980, five years after the end of the Vietnam War that Post- traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, became recognized as a mental health condition. The soldiers from the Vietnam War were the first to have the condition applied to them (PTSD and Vietnam Veterans). Soldiers before this time who experienced this condition went untreated and had no outlook for help for a long time.
The public had troubles accepting these labels. The idea that health no longer referred to the health of the body was a thought concept tough grasp. It was quick to assume that those who may have suffered from mental health issues for society to say that it was “all in their head” or “they are making it up”. It wasn’t an illness that others could see. Many free up believing that those who had mental health issues were posed by a demonic or religious entity. Family’s who had individuals who struggled often were taken to asylums. These asylums had little to no governmental aid and the purpose of these were to ostracize those individuals with mental health issues form society. The people here lived in poverish conditions.
Neglected and often left to their own demise. Illegal practices such as unethical supposed medicinal treatments were performed on some of these individuals as well. Electroshock therapy was a popular treatment and patients were given medication that kept them heavily sedated. In 1963 “John F. Kennedy signed the Mental Retardation Facilitates and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act, which provided federal support and funding for community mental health centers” (Mental Health Treatment). It started the movement to deinstitutionalize, to close large asylums by instead offering treatment centers within home communities.
The idea was well intended but the execution was unsuccessful. A large portion of this centers were underfunded or not set up due to people social stigmas of mental health. “Centers were underfunded, staff was not trained to handle severe illnesses such as schizophrenia, there was high staff burnout, and no provision was made for the other services people needed, such as housing, food, and job training. Without these supports, those people released under deinstitutionalization often ended up homeless” ( Mental Health Treatment). Although these distraught circumstances did invoke for stricter governments regulation and moderation, these types of environments may still exist today.
Before the 2000’s mental health was not popular televised. The public would still see media; whether that be in literature, music or television, as individuals with mental illness still being villainous. The stigma still stood that those with mental illness should be shunned and put in institutions. Doctors were quick to refer heavy sedative medicine to their patients. The media outlets did little to no research on mental illness when including them in their projects. People with schizophrenia were shown as violent, dangerous and ending up as criminals.
Those wit depression are shown to be alone and recluse. The worst was seeing those with developmental delays as individuals who could not live a happy life. Mental illness held the ideas in the media of people being alone, criminals, dependent and living unhappy life’s. Many of these ideas still hold true in 2019. Part of the stereotype came the perception that those with mental illness would not be able to recover. Recovery is hardly ever shown.
Movies like “American Psycho” (2000), that are displaying the concepts of narcissistic disorder and schizophrenia never showed the character Patrick Bateman struggle with the disorders. Instead, the audience viewed him as a selfish individual, with no empathy and murderous. Another example is the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975). The movie begins with the negative portrayal of a psychiatric facility, and again portraying the main character McMurphy as a criminal . Also adding that those who work in these facilities have malicious intentions. Since the media outlets are not regulated, there is no one or association that helps with accurate portrayals of mental illness.
There is no doubt that the government intended to help with those who suffer from metal disorders. However, many of those movements have been strict and in reality proved little to no change. In 1972, President Nixon seized the funds for the National Institute of Mental Health. Prior to 1974, employment applications had questions asking an applicant about history of mental illness. This allowed for potential employees trio discriminate against applicants and not hire those who had such history.
Due to this, healthcare companies neglected coverage those with mental illness. Companies were not are to certain extents are still required to help accommodate spaces and jobs for those with mental disabilities. That meant that if individuals were hurt on the job, they could refuse any time of workman’s compensation to the employee with mental illness. In 1990, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed to help with some of the issues in the workplace.
The education system was not any better. The education system lacked equal opportunity and resources for children. Children with mental illness often were secluded in different classroom, pushed along the grade for the sake of not having to worry about the child’s needs, and sent to facilities that did not have the ability for free public education. This is still an issue today. Schools, especially those is rural areas get little to no funding for children with mental disabilities.Many of the para aids hired to help with these kids have no background with working with these types of children. Leaving children in open to accidental maltreatment and possibly neglect. Because these school are limitedly funded, rural schools often do not have programs set up to accommodate these children.
Again, pushing in that kids are then passed along grade by grade in schools without the help they need. A system set up for failure. Little or no support is available. There is still regulation this schools have to follow. However, the follow up to actually make sure these stipulations are being followed are scarce and the loopholes around them are endless. One of those intended regulation programs is The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law “ makes available free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children. IDEA governs how stated and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 6.5 million children…”(IDEA).
Both acts passed with the best intentions to help with individuals with mental illness. However, both are limiting, inadequate to fit todays society and loosely worded. Each act is open to an agencies interpretation. An accommodation for a work place for someone who needs a quiet place to work due to their anxiety disorder could still have incentive pay or limited funding available for the company to provide such area. In schools a child on the autism who many need a sensory break during a regular class hour, may need someone to be available to remove him. In rural and urban areas, staffing may be limited and an inadequate space may be unavailable. Mental health crisis is on the ride in the U.S. If the government does not become more regulated, stricter and realize the importance of this crisis, those with mental illness will continue to suffer and live without the proper resources that they need.