Stigmatizing and Shunning the Severely Ill

July 30, 2014 11:26 PM

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We are civilized people in the United States. We don't set up leper colonies or concentration camps or psychiatric snake pits to banish people with severe mental illness. Instead we send them to jail or prison -- almost 400,000 of them, more than 10 times the number receiving care in hospitals. And we also blithely ignore the fact that additional hundreds of thousands live homeless on the streets or in squalid housing and have little or no access to treatment.

The severely mentally ill are rarely sent to jail for real crimes; they are usually locked up for doing annoying things that disturb the peace of the neighborhood. These offenses against public decorum could have been avoided had they received adequate treatment and decent housing. Most European cou...

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