They often shared space with the criminally insane, as if they themselves were a reprobate, instead of simply a sufferer of mental illness. Only the most basic of needs were met under these conditions. Much research and medical discoveries have made the appalling treatment of mentally ill patients a thing of the past. Great strides have been made in determining the vast types of mental illness and the severity of each.
In today’s world there are a variety of options for the mentally ill, or the family who cares for them. We have access to medicines that literally change the life of patients who, just a few decades ago would have been locked away like a criminal. There are treatment centers that specialize in each individual’s specific illness, support groups for every imaginable condition, and the best of doctor’s care. Science and the medical field have worked together in recognizing that “basic needs” for a person with mental illness are different than the basic needs of a “normal” person. More in-depth care and treatment are needed to meet an acceptable quality of life.
In some third world countries, mental illness is still treated with fear, anger, and even disgust. Some are forced to live in squalid, unsanitary conditions, often locked away and having very little human contact. Their basic needs are not being met. On the contrary, they may be tortured or killed in hopes of “warding off evil”, or “exorcising demons”. Surprisingly, this even happens in “civilized” countries. The tragic story of Anneliese Michel is an example of how horribly wrong things can go, when basic needs are not met. The young lady was ill and not given proper medical treatment, resulting in her gruesome death.
We have come a long way in identifying and treating some forms of mental illness. Meeting patient’s basic needs has become more of a priority than it was in the not too distant past. The success rate, when compared with the asylums of old, is absolutely astounding. Still, more can be done to bring attention to the needs of mentally ill patients. The first step is knowledge. From there, steps can be taken to secure ethical and human treatment of these human beings who need to be cared for.