A Psychiatric Dark Age

I appreciate Bob Keefer’s perspective (“Lessons From Bull Street,” Eugene Weekly June 22) countering a popular narrative that all mental hospitals mirror One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Yes, the horrors of some hospitals are irrefutable, but this article reflects firsthand a more compassionate, albeit complex, treatment of the severely mentally ill.

My children’s father was found dead at 47 by Pringle Creek in Salem last year, so badly decomposed it took weeks to identify him. At one point, he was an inpatient at the state hospital for schizophrenia, and had supportive post-treatment housing with court-mandated medication management. He was functional, employable and engaged with living.

Without this protocol, he became noncompliant and slipped deeper into psychosis, criminality and homelessness. We are told this is a loved one’s “choice,” even with diminished cognitive capacity — which I compare to allowing a 3-year-old to determine when they deem it safe to cross a busy highway.

My beautiful daughter, at 27, battles this same organic brain disease, and I fear a similar catastrophic fate without proper treatment. Keefer poignantly concludes in his article that perhaps medical neglect of the vulnerable mentally ill is the real abuse. If we see a diabetic slipping into an insulin crisis or a person having a heart attack or stroke, don’t we intervene with life-saving measures?

Poorly managed mental illness often has a fatal outcome — being homeless and dying from the elements, sepsis, drug addiction or natural causes. America, at the moment, is in a psychiatric dark age. 

Erin Davis

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