Fix Homelessness How to rebuild human lives
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Mental Illness

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Old Mental Hospital Sign
Old Mental Hospital Sign

Good Intentions, Horrible Results

Last week on Fix Homelessness and in my monthly OlaskyBooks newsletter, I gave highlights and lowlights from Andrew Scull’s Desperate Remedies: Psychiatry’s Turbulent Quest to Cure Mental Illness (Harvard University Press, 2022). He notes that many mentally ill people are now homeless and on the streets instead of in state-funded mental hospitals. (Those institutions, like Michigan’s Lapeer State Home and Training School, housed sufferers. Then the 1960s brought in new drugs and new Washington-paid health plans, Medicare and Medicaid.) I didn’t have room last week to dive into an important question: Which came first, medical panaceas (that turned out not to be so) or money incentives? Scull says money, in many instances: “In at least seventeen states, inpatient censuses had Read More ›

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West Hollywood Homelessness Wild Tents Camp
West Hollywood Homelessness Wild Tents Camp

Mental Illness on the Streets

From 1978 to 1983 I worked at Du Pont, which had a famous slogan: “Better things for better living through chemistry.” Andrew Scull’s Desperate Remedies: Psychiatry’s Turbulent Quest to Cure Mental Illness (Harvard University Press, 2022), shows how those years were the culmination of a “better drugs for better living” approach to mental illness that led to closing asylums across the United States”—and left many of the sickest among us homeless. Read More ›
two people circling in old building
Two psycho friends going around chair supporting each other in mental house
Photo licensed via Adobe Stock

Homeless Encampments and Mental illness

Fifty-one years ago I bicycled from Boston to Oregon. I was a Marxist then and looking for evidence of the American empire falling apart, but during the whole ten weeks on the road I didn’t see the one tourist attraction that would have delighted my propagandistic self: homeless encampments. Now every city seems to have them. Read More ›
bald homeless man
Young poor skinny anorexic bald homeless man sitting on the urban street in the city or town near old wall trying to hide his face, homelessness social documentary concept
Photo licensed via Adobe Stock

Republicans Could Lead on Mental Health Treatment

Tucked away in the gun law President Biden just signed is a provision increasing funding for preventive outpatient treatment for mental illness. This is an important step toward solving America’s mental-health crisis but only part of what’s needed. Read More ›
Robert Marbut Interview

Robert Marbut on America’s Homelessness Crisis, Strategies for Uplifting the Homeless, and Effective Government Policies

Homelessness has reached crisis proportions. Few issues of human dignity are as heart wrenching as the wretched scenes in our most prosperous cities—San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle—where one can drive down main thoroughfares and be confronted with tent encampments lining streets that provide scant shelter for thousands of destitute people. Read More ›
Homeless man drug and alcohol addict sitting alone and depressed on the street in the shadow feeling anxious and lonely, social documentary concept
Homeless man drug and alcohol addict sitting alone and depressed on the street in the shadow feeling anxious and lonely, social documentary concept
Licensed via Adobe Stock

How Housing First Fails the Mentally Ill

The closing of mental institutions in the 20th century was meant to create better living conditions for the mentally ill. But it appears twenty-first century alternatives still regularly neglect the schizophrenic, bipolar, and other seriously ill members of the community. Read More ›
Silhouette of troubled person head. Concept image of anxiety and negative emotion. Waste paper and head silhouette.
Silhouette of troubled person head. Concept image of anxiety and negative emotion. Waste paper and head silhouette.
Licensed via Adobe Stock

Mental Illness and Mass Shootings: Is There A Connection?

There is a connection between untreated, serious mental illness (as distinguished from mental illness) and mass public violence. But instead of allowing that connection to instill fear, it should inspire compassion. Read More ›
homeless-in-san-francisco-sheltering-in-place-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-stockpack-adobe-stock
Homeless in San Francisco sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic
Licensed via Adobe Stock

Homelessness: The Mental Illness Thread

In the middle of the National Mall at 5:45 this morning, a man shouted at no one in particular. Dressed in pajama pants, a T-shirt, and supported by a cane, he waved around a flashlight and occasionally struck his cane on the ground, all the while belting out a disruptive sing-song melody. Read More ›