Thursday, November 18, 2010

Join us for Lesson Five: With You In Mind

Dear JLI Student,

The history of the treatment of the mentally ill is a sad one. In the seventeenth century, the mentally ill were often chained to walls, whipped, and housed in dungeons with vagrants and criminals.

Nineteenth century reformer Dorothy Dix was at the vanguard creating humane asylums for the insane, where patients were provided sunny rooms and opportunity to exercise outdoors. Yet a century later, many of these asylums were overcrowded and filthy, the chains of an earlier age replaced with surgical lobotomy, electro-convulsive therapy, and stupor-inducing drugs.

With the development of new psychiatric drug treatments in the seventies and eighties, it was felt that the asylums had outlived their usefulness, and most of them were shut down. Yet they were not replaced with appropriate housing alternatives. Today, more than 100,000 people in American jails are mentally ill. Some are held there without charges while they await a bed in a psychiatric hospital.

If excessive interference into the lives of the people who are mentally ill has often resulted in travesty, benign neglect has not yielded more humane results.

In this lesson, we explore some Jewish ethical guidelines for the development of compassionate treatment for people suffering from mental illness.

Looking forward to seeing you next Tuesday.

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