Worlds of the Mentally Ill: How Deinstitutionalization Works in the City
Lewis offers a radically different perspective on care of the mentally ill now that these patients are no longer isolated from society. This book is ... Show synopsis Lewis offers a radically different perspective on care of the mentally ill now that these patients are no longer isolated from society. This book is based on a series of interviews conducted with 313 Chicago area patients released from four different state hospitals. Rather than rely on retrospective data-gathering on patients at intake, Lewis began at the time of release, tracking the patients for 12 months during which they were interviewed twice. This approach permitted Lewis and his researchers to discover where the patients went, whom they turned to for help, how they viewed themselves and their illness, and how they fared. Former patients who had lost their homes and support networks by alienating families and employers ended up on the streets and eventually in jail. Half of the patients interviewed had criminal records, a third of them having committed felonies. Of the former patients who returned to mental institutions, 97 percent did so voluntarily. One-fifth of those recommitted themselves because they lacked jobs and housing. Lewis says the government can help by providing more welfare funding, medication aid, support to patients' families, and homeless shelters with qualified counselors. "If we don't do anything about the poverty, we can't do anything about the mental illness. We must tie work and welfare to treatment settings."