From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The ill effects of not providing proper treatment for people with serious mental disorders has become all too apparent in recent years, writes research psychiatrist and treatment advocate Torrey (Surviving Manic-Depression
). Released en masse from institutions beginning in the 1960s, the most severely ill are most likely to become homeless, incarcerated, victimized, and/or violent. Torrey details how civil liberties suits have prevented such people from being involuntarily institutionalized, leaving them a danger both to themselves and to others. Confronting these issues head on, Torrey offers both the clinical and the anecdotal, citing several tragic examples: in the case of Cho Seung-Hui, the 2007 Virginia Tech killer, he faults both the university and stringent state laws regarding involuntary commitment for neglecting to treat a clearly very ill young man. This reform-minded book calls for a change in laws affecting how mentally ill people are treated, keeping close track of those with a history of violent behavior and creating a more comprehensive treatment approach. Chilling and well documented, this text has many no-nonsense solutions to protect the mentally ill themselves as well as society as a whole. (July)
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Research psychiatrist Torrey says that what began in the 1960s as an unlikely marriage between civil liberties advocates, who saw mandatory institutionalization of the mentally ill as a civil rights violation, and cost-conscious conservatives has resulted in a national catastrophe. That was when state governments decided they could save money by deinstitutionalizing mental patients, shuttering mental hospitals, and turning thousands of schizophrenics and manic-depressives out onto the streets. Ever since then, Torrey has been tallying instances in which severe mental illness has contributed to an escalating number of violent attacks, murders, and suicides and counting the number of severely mentally ill who are either homeless or incarcerated. Though he admits some of his numbers are estimates—most public officials like to pretend the mentally ill are invisible and thus fail to keep an accounting—they speak volumes about the dire need for public institutions equipped to help the severely mentally ill regain control over their destructive behaviors. His cry is loud and clear, but his solutions, alas, are necessarily complicated. --Donna Chavez