History of Mental Health


Historyof Mental Health

The historyof mental health in the United States gives a good representation ofhow trends in cultural understanding and psychiatry in mental healthinfluence attitudes and national policy towards mental health. TheUnited States is regarded to have a progressive mental health caresystem, its evolution history, and the current state of the healthsystem. The paper, therefore, takes about the history of mentalhealth in the United States. Two films, &quotRain Man&quot (1988)and &quotOne Flew Over the Cuckoo`s Nest&quot (1975), are studiedand their mental health-related themes used to draw illustrations andreferences. The paper also connects themes from the films with thosein Robert Whitaker`s &quotMad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine,and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill.&quot

Historyof Mental Health: &quotRain Man&quot (1988)

&quotRain Man&quotis a 1988 film that revolves around the close relationship between ayoung, self-entitled brother, a role played by Tom Cruise,individuals` misunderstanding, inheritance institutionalization basedon the autism spectrum, and how ties within the family succeed overall the failings. &quotRain Man&quot is considered a feel goodfilm, based on the message about how the American society reacts andperceive individuals with unusual mental conditions. The film givesclear insights over the autistic disorder in a manner that isevidently present in most behaviors shown by the people with themental disorder.

Drawing aconnection from Robert Whitaker`s &quotMad in America,&quotlunatics were kept in foul-smelling, gloomy cells, while the&quotkeepers&quot ruled over them freely by use if the whips. Here,individuals diagnosed with mental disorders, in this case, thelunatics, were considered &quotUnruly&quot (Whitaker, 2002). Unrulypatients represented patients will little to be associated with, andbecause of that, they were regularly &quotchained to iron rings, putinside the cells` walls, and restrained in ankle-irons and restrainedwith handcuffs. All these actions towards mentally ill individualsrecount the America`s psychiatric history until 1950.

Actions towardsthe mentally ill patients are best connected with the 1988 film,&quotRain Man,&quot on how the theme of isolation prevailed. Forinstance, when Charlie (Cruise) learned about Hoffman`s autism, whichhe had initially believed not to have been authentic, with how hegrew with frustrations towards his brother`s unusual antics.Isolation became evident with how mentally ill patients in the UnitedStates were perceived then.

The 1988 film,&quotRain Man,&quot gives insights into the history of mentalhealth basing it on one of its characters, Hoffman, whose characterwas considered to be eccentric and genius. Even with physicalisolation from his brother Charlie, the American societal history,according to Whitaker (2002), view Autistic patients to be entitledto individuality. Individuality in the film &quotRain Man,&quot isone of the themes considered to have represented these patients sincethe country`s awareness on the mental health.

As per theAmerican manual on mentally ill patients, for autism, for example,there are specific criteria evident in the &quotRain Man,&quotwhich is a diagnosis of the disorder. The criteria are best observedin the film that the qualitative social interaction impairment shownby Raymond include &quotdisability in sensing impact.&quot Drawingan instance from Robert Whitaker`s book, social interaction frommental patients is acknowledged in the book an approach to socialtreatment, and not a measure of desperation during difficult times.Whitaker (2002) noted that United States` overcrowded mental wardssince time immemorial were filled with rising number of mentalpatients for whom no better treatment was available.

Social interactionas being a part of &quotRain Man`s&quot theme reflected over howmentally diagnosed patients behaved the film explains how suchindividuals find it difficult to hold a conversation. The history ofmental health is also developed as a representation of America`ssocietal setting. For instance, Raymond is seen to have had no friendsince he was diagnosed with the condition. He only kept interestslike reading, keeping cards, and writing. His first encounter withSusanna outraged Raymond. He was not happy with it and is seen tohave pulled away from her. Raymond also lacked social and emotionalreciprocity, for example, he did not respond after being informed ofhis father`s death.

Raymond representsautistic patients in the United States. He also represents thehistory of the disorder, while basing it on various themes in thefilm, &quotRain Man.&quot In connection with Robert Whitaker`s &quotMadin America,&quot Raymond autism is likened to the rise of eugenicsin the second part of the book. The second section of &quotMad inAmerica&quot represent the darkest era of mental illnesses. Thesecond section also talks about the history of diagnosis and newlyinvigorated mental fields of neuroscience and psychiatry. Autism is adisorder also incorporated in the two fields.

The history ofmental fields` era, between 1900 and 1960, is also the era ofuncertainty the same way Charlie was unsure of what to do with hisbrother, Hoffman. Whitaker appeared to be unsure of whether mentalillness was in existence. He described it as &quotloosely applied toindividuals whose desperation elicited emotional problems.&quotAlso, the &quotRain Man&quot draws the connection from this sectionby looking how the Americans mental illness history was perceived tobe &quotmyth of mental illness nonsense.&quot The history ofAmerican medicine, in essence, was developed a whole new process fordiagnosing mental illnesses from a range of people.

There is also aparticular connection over stereotypes placed upon mental illnesses.Raymond in the film &quotRain Man,&quot had a restrictiverepetition over the stereotyped patterns of interests, behaviors, andabnormal activities he was involved. With his autism, behaviors andstereotypes included turning off lights at 11 p.m., placing his bedbeside the window, experience emotional outburst, and hyperactivity.

Mental illnesses in the United States were a characteristic ofprominence with the motif highlighted in the film to being the mediumin between now and then. Usually, these stereotypes promote stigma,which haunts sufferers as they attempt to be better people in thesociety. Social interaction as a theme is evident here consideringRobert Whitaker in his book &quotMad in America,&quot was quick todisregard the portrayal of people with mental illnesses to beingsympathetic, while being moderately inaccurate.

The stereotype that the mentally ill individuals are withdrawn isepitomized in the film &quotRain Man.&quot Raymond`s life wasgreatly affected because of the autistic disorder since he was usedto living his life in sections. After his birth, he was unable toenjoy his life, and the rest of his family even thought that it wasunfit for his little brother to spend time with him. According toWhitaker (2002), it was a characteristic of the American societyimmediately after first mental illnesses were realized in the UnitedStates.

Raymond`s situation in the film also perceives America`s naivety atthe time on every aspect of mental illnesses. Mental illnesses at thetime were not well-spread and information about the same meant thatthe Americans were not well aware of the implications in the society.For example, Raymond, as viewed in the film, had no clear insightabout the disorder he was diagnosed. His Attorney, however, and laterhis younger brother made decisions for him. Towards the end of thefilm, Raymond was asked whether he wished to stay his younger brotheror go back to Wall Brook. Here, the history of the American Societyof perceived to be that one who was controlling over mentally illpatients.

In connection with Robert Whitaker`s book &quotMad in America,&quothe went ahead and shade light over the society`s description ofmentally ill patients as those with &quotSchizophrenia&quot at thesame time as error-based individuals with psychiatry. The historicalconsortium of the American society was based on the lack of treatmentof mentally ill patients. For instance, Robert Whitaker`s descriptionof over 50 years of American scientists undertaking experiments overmental illnesses is evidence that the American history over suchillnesses were intentionally used to acerbate symptoms and studyresults.

Rain Man (1988) themes best suit topics from Robert Whitaker`s topicsrelated to mental illnesses. The topic of the book, &quotMoralTreatment in America,&quot created a radical change in early 1950`s.The radical change was because of the societal pressure from thoseindividuals diagnosed with mental illnesses. The film fits democraticideals of the American history while becoming optimistic of thesocietal tenor of times. Autism, for instance, was feared in thesociety considering people toyed with the possibility of not havingthe self-control to handle the mental illness.

In conclusion, the history of mental health in the United States isshown vividly in the film Rain Man (1988). The character Raymond,having been diagnosed with Autism draws common themes from RobertWhitaker`s &quotMad in America&quot with themes such as socialisolation and stereotype taking center stage. The history of mentalhealth draws illustrations in the manner in which the film portrays alot of features that were a characteristic of the American etiologyover the lack of information about mental illnesses. The lack ofinformation is characterized by social isolation and stereotypes overindividuals diagnosed with the mental illness.

Historyof Mental Health: &quotOne Flew over the Cuckoo`s Nest&quot (1975)

In the 1975 film&quotOne Flew over the Cuckoo`s Nest,&quot R.P. McMurphy, theprotagonist, enters an asylum state even when his mind could havebeen perfectly healthy. Seen with his doctor, the interaction betweenthe two reveals a complicated attitude taken by the film towardsmental illness: &quotNow you`re telling me I`m insane over heresince I`m not a goddamn vegetable sitting there.&quot &quotIfthat`s what crazy is with you then I`m senseless: gone down the road,out of t, wacko.&quot In the entire film, McMurphy`s state of mindbecomes questionable as he slowly escalates his conflict with thehospital authorities. The thing that is never in question is otherpatient`s health that alternates between violent outbursts and dumbpassivity irrespective of their real diagnosis of their diseases. Inthis manner, psychiatric illness becomes the real protagonist in theentire film.

Having watched thefilm, the history of mental health in the United States is evidencedby the manner in which the film is set. Mental illness is representedin the film as one of the prominent motif since the start of themedium. However, closely watching the film is evident that thefilmmakers misrepresented the magnitude of it. Mental health historywas represented by the film whose portrayals showed promoted stigmasin the country. The stigmas happened to haunt majority of thesufferers as they try to function normally in the society. It isevident that the film was based on protagonist`s portrayal ofindividual battles with mental illnesses, which also hindered socialinteraction relayed by the stigma.

Robert Whitaker`sbook &quotMad in America&quot connects well with the film in waysthat highlights the state of America`s medical level as far as mentalillnesses are concerned. The book talks about the 1950`s psychiatrictreatment of its patients (Whitaker, 2002). This was considered to bethe era of spinning chairs, a characteristic of Benjamin Rush. Italso was the era of eugenics, forced sterilization, and lobotomies.Back then, the book showed a sad history, which was described in fewtons in the name of Eugenics. The book also connects with theAmerica`s mental illnesses and the American Society (1875-1940). Bycontrast, Robert Whitaker approached his subject in the book as KenKesey, his subject, did in &quotOne Flew over the Cuckoo`s Nest,&quotand its eventuality is filled with footnotes form from a physician.

In the America`s history, nowhere does Robert Whitaker acknowledgethat some of the approaches are a treatment where desperationmeasures during desperate times. The America`s overcrowded mentalwards, according to Robert`s Whitaker`s explanation, were filled withthe continuous increase in numbers of mentally ill patients for whomthe treatments were made available (Whitaker, 2002). A close study ofthe film reveals how nurses in the 1950`s handled patients withmental illness. Here, the illnesses are regarded to be untouchable,and the perception placed on the mental health, not only was mindfulover hard labor, and thus serves a reminder in a more relaxed mentalhospital environment.

The mentally ill patients are not handled well by the physicians asis shown by the sadistic Nurse, Mildred. The nurse employs unpleasanttreatment, subtle humiliation, and mind-numbing routine by subjectingpatients to it. The film shows McMurphy`s realization that thesadistic nurse is only focused on her normal living outside themedical environment. The film draws illustrations from RobertWhitaker`s book &quotMad in America&quot to show how the perceptionof patients with mental illness was handled in the 1950`s.

The history of mental health is illustrated by the book`s ability tocarry out a study on the United States. The study was meant to be acomparison of different countries histories as far as mentalillnesses were concerned. For instance, Robert Whitaker discussed atlength a Schizophrenia study from three developing countries(Colombia, Nigeria, and India) (Whitaker, 2002). The comparison wasto determine the frequency over the use of medication. The comparisonshowed differences in how these patients were handled over the years.

Taking a look at mental illnesses such as schizophrenia andpsychosis, Robert Whitaker in his book reveals the cause to be theabnormal dopamine levels that the drugs worked from within throughdopamine`s alteration. The mental health history, through the film&quotOne Flew over the Cuckoo`s Nest&quot was characterized by themisappropriation of funds and lack of owning up among the nurses inmost of the hospitals.

For example, when the sadistic nurse report to work in one of thescenes, she discovers that the hospital wards are upended. While sheorders cleaning attendants to clean up the place, McMurphy, theprotagonist, showed how his mental illness can affect those aroundsuch patients. For instance, while Nurse Ratched struggles to ensurethe wards are cleaned, McMurphy nearly chokes her almost to death.

Some of the themes in the film include madness, freedom andconfinement, power, rebellion, and laws and order. The theme ofmadness, for example, shows characters considered to be mentally illdrawing a thin line between what is considered to be normal andabnormal. Mental health history made much of the difference in theUnited States considering it consists of lots of fear. The madnesscould also be connected with Robert Whitaker`s book, especially onthe topic of moral treatment in the United States.

For example, York Quakers and Pinel in the book had presented thecountry`s history with the manner in which the society perceivedmadness. It was not far off when the mentally ill patients werestarted to be thought of as more than just animals and creatures.Instead, the American`s society began to think about madness andmental illness as part of an inner capacity for these people to gaincontrol over themselves after rigorous mental treatment.

Another theme includes freedom and confinement as seen in the film.The theme draws illustrations from the film when the protagonist islocked up in the mental institution. However, most of the patientsare voluntary because confinement comes with freedom and safety. Inthe film, it is evident that the world is divided into the worldoutside (freedom) and asylum inside (confined). In the mental wards,freedom and confinement are also felt. It was a characteristic of theUnited States` mental health`s institutions. The film draws instanceswhere freedoms and struggles are experienced within the DisturbedWard.

The film adapts a connection in Robert Whitaker`s &quotMad inAmerica.&quot The book is caught up in a situation where instancesof freedom are characterized by McMurphy, the protagonist`s abilityto exude a free-spirited characteristic of his personality, even whenhe is diagnosed with a mental illness (Whitaker, 2002). Such a themeis almost in the manner in which the post-war America society wasviewed. Also, the connection is brought about by McMurphy`sconfinement with the unwillingness of the nurses to stay in that kindof mental state.

The film`s theme of manipulation draws a connection from RobertWhitaker`s &quotMad in America.&quot Here, Nurse Ratched who is thefilm`s protagonist maintains that the power he has manipulates thefears and desires of men. She is also able to manipulate the stafffollowing an insinuation that a careful stoking followed the hatred.McMurphy, for instance, tried to manipulate all the other patients`without having to manipulate the entire mental hospital setting withas money does.

Having a look at United States` mental illnesses, a lot of patientsadmitted to the mental institutions are considered isolated from thesociety. The film`s antagonist, for instance, is entirely drunk withthe power given to her. When McMurphy, the protagonist shows up, theisolation comes as a result of the power that lies in the nurse`sability to maintain a sexless faced, while emasculating all mentallyill patients. Also, drawing insights from Robert Whitaker`s book,power has a theme comes with numerous challenges with clinicalpsychiatry.

The predetermination from Whitaker is based on the fact that thetopics talked about in the book are in some way reluctant onshort-term. With the alleged epidemic illness shown in the film, itis true that bad medicine talked about is a proof that the history ofmental illness in the United States is until today considered as anepidemic (Whitaker, 2002). The protagonist in the film suggests thatis medicines are wonderful then incidence of mental illnesses in thecountry could reduce drastically. The same is also seen with thediagnosis beforehand as a normalcy with more forms highlighted by thestatistics since 1950.

The support of the epidemic that is mental illnesses compares wellwith an entire number of mentally ill patients hospitalized. RobertWhitaker`s book draws illustrations from such a situation bycomparing the rate of hospitalization today and five decades ago(Whitaker, 2002). He also compares the total number of mentally illindividuals in the history of the United States with those of todaywithout having to adjust population.

In conclusion, the 1975 film &quotOne Flew over the Cuckoo`s Nesttalks about mental illnesses as is characterized by McMurphy, theprotagonist. The nature and perception of the illness many years backcompare differently with the perception today. Themes from the filmwere compared with Robert Whitaker`s illustration of topics, forexample, bad medicine, which is highlighted by the antagonist, thenurse. The history of the mental health in the United States is bestillustrated by the film, and how the illnesses are danced around byRobert Whitaker`s admittance of how the disease exists in thesociety. The novelist created semantics in the avoidance ofadmittance of how medications, when used, could help the mentally illpatients like McMurphy.


Whitaker, R. (2002). Mad in America: Bad science, bad medicine,and the enduring mistreatment of the mentally ill. Cambridge, MA:Perseus Pub. Retrieved fromhttps://kindle.amazon.com/work/mad-america-medicine-enduring-mistreatment/B000AED8B4/0465020143