In the early 1900s throughout much of that century, mental illness was a stigma and a condition that wasn’t understood. In fact, in many instances around the world it was considered a crime. Even in cases where it wasn’t considered to be a crime, it was still punished like one with confinement in prisons or in psych wards that would conduct barbaric ‘treatments’ on patients.
It’s easy to see that things have changed, since mental illness is much more understood now than it ever was before. New treatments and developments make it much easier for people to get the help that they need. However, in many cases mental illness is still something that leads to criminalization.
Consider these facts:
- 70 percent of all youth in the justice system’s juvenile sector are suffering from a mental illness.
- One out of all 5 prisoners in the country suffer from mental illness of some form.
It gets worse. In many unsettling instances, those who have mental illnesses and who are confined to jails or prisons suffer even more abuse at the hands of their fellow inmates or even guards. California has had to change its regulations after incidents involving prison guards spraying pepper spray on those with mental illness, along with other mistreatment.
NAMI has worked diligently to try to change this, starting with a warning delivered to the US senate that placing the mentally ill in solitary confinement is a treatment that will only make things worse for them. Additionally, NAMI has developed different workshops and conventions to focus on this issue.
The solution is, as always, a deeper understanding of the mentally ill and a closer look at just how we can help them. While those who have committed crimes may very well deserve punishment, there are often other factors to consider, and looking closely at them is important as well to ensure that those with mental illness aren’t mistreated and that they don’t suffer even more as a result of their condition and their incarceration. Mental illness isn’t a crime, but unfortunately it is still treated like one in some instances. Hopefully, one day that will change.
we advocate for mental health and we have support.