DECEMBER 15, 1953
NEW YORK, Monday—I devoted all Friday morning to what I hope is my last Christmas shopping and to a number of little personal chores, but at lunchtime I had the great privilege of going to Mrs. Alfred F. Hess' to meet Dr. and Mrs. William Menninger. The Menninger Foundation has done a most outstanding piece of work in the state mental hospital in Kansas and in the care of the veterans.
Dr. Menninger has reduced the population which was constantly growing, by the type of care he is giving, and in spite of the increase in personnel he has actually made mental care less expensive for the state. In the first place they have not had to build new buildings and have had more patients return to normal life where they can support themselves.
He feels that our great difficulty is the lack of trained psychiatrists in this country at present. Money should be put into this training as quickly as possible. Psychiatry is a fertile field for quackery, so good training is essential. He says that the public, however, must also be trained and that they in Kansas have succeeded in removing much of the public's fear which surrounded their contacts with the hospital and the patients.
Now many of the patients go out and work in the community every day and the community takes part in many of the hospital activities. For instance, the Junior League furnishes a number of services. Dr. Menninger wishes that the work being done there could be duplicated all over the United States. By reducing the adult population of the state hospital they have been able to put in a children's ward which has been of great value.
Juvenile delinquency is closely allied, of course, to mental health and it is all important what kind of care and supervision is given children from their earliest days by the school, by the church, and through any other contacts which the child has in the community. Everyone should watch for signs of mental and emotional disturbance which may quickly be cured or prevented at an early age but which, if left to increase, may prove much more serious at a later date.
This whole mental health situation is becoming increasingly important in the U.S. because every state is conscious of the ever-increasing role of the mental patients who frequently require tremendous additions to our mental hospitals and entail expenses for care. We should also take into consideration the loss of income because the individual patient is no longer earning.
Dr. Menninger confirmed what I have often felt about the juvenile delinquent, namely, that in them it is the lack of love and protection which turns them into enemies of society. I have always noticed in the youngsters at Wiltwyck School for Boys in New York the desire they have for love and attention and the way they cling to it wherever they find it.