JULY 22, 1947
CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, N. B., Monday—A book that everyone should read is "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," by Frank L. Wright, Jr. It is published by the National Mental Health Foundation, Inc. In every one of our states, there are institutions for patients who are mentally ill. Some of these patients are going to be cared for indefinitely within the institutions. But some of them, particularly the younger ones, with proper care and proper surroundings, may return to being useful members of society.
In some states more money is spent on mental health than in others, but in almost every state more could be done for the patients who have a chance to get well. This problem is particularly important at the present time, because one of the aftermaths of war is the great number of young men mentally affected as a result of the experiences they have been through. If they had not been taken out of the surroundings to which they were accustomed and had not suffered undue mental or emotional strain, many of them would be well today. With proper care, many may still return to their normal condition.
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The mentally ill are a burden on the taxpayers of every state. Inadequate appropriations really add to this burden because they prevent proper care and make it impossible for research to be carried on. We are woefully short of psychiatrists in this nation—a fact which was made very clear during the war. The increase in the number of mentally ill is out of all proportion to what it should be, and indicates the need for the training of research people in this field.
Inadequate appropriations for public institutions in any state mean low pay for employees, poor food, bad physical surroundings. And when pay is inadequate for professional people, it means poor care for the inmates of institutions.
In many cases, even on the higher levels, the pay is not adequate for well-trained people unless they are looking for the particular experience which they can obtain in a public institution. Even in that case, they will not stay long, and this breaks up the continuity of both medical care and business administration.
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One of the stories in Mr. Wright's little book struck me because it is so typical of many institutions I have known. It is the story of inspection day, when suddenly everything which should always be available is available—but only for the few hours of inspection, after which it is removed.
Then, there is the story of the doctor who, when an early cold snap came, called the head of the institution to ask if more blankets could be supplied, as he had seen them on hand, or if the heat could be turned on. He was told "No" because the regulations said that neither blankets nor heat could be made available before Sept. 15th—and this was Sept. 10th.