The Social Cure For Mental Illness

“Everyone is much more simply human than otherwise.” – Harry Stack Sullivan

The United States is the worst place in the developed world to have a severe mental illness.

By failing to provide adequate care and housing, we have condemned 350,000 to jails and 250,000 to the streets.

Paradoxically, we have very much destigmatized mild mental illness by greatly broadening its definition. It certainly takes the sting out of having a mental disorder diagnosis when 20 percent of our population pops a psychiatric pill every day.

In contrast, the severely ill have never been so unfairly stigmatized. We have closed 90 percent of psychiatric beds, but didn’t invest the money saved in decent community treatment and housing. Without social ties and without access to medication, the severely ill seem much more disturbed than they really are.

As Aristotle pointed out, we are social animals who can be fully human only when interacting with others. In the US, we worsen the symptoms of our mentally ill by neglecting their needs and excluding them from society. Fortunately, the reciprocal is also true — we can heal by simple human acts of caring and inclusion.

Virgil Stucker has spent almost his entire adult life in therapeutic communities that encourage the resocialization and recovery of people with severe mental illness. He is the director of the CooperRiis Healing Community in Asheville, NC.

Virgil writes:

“I have lived most of the last 40 years in nonprofit healing communities with people who are diagnosed with mental illness. My family and I often walk with, dine with, socialize with, work with, and play with people who too often are treated as society’s castaways.

Over these years, my wife Lis and I have had several thousand such people join us at our daily table. We, along with our —> Read More