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In Mental Health, Good Ideas are History

Peter Stastny, M.D., Albert Einstein College of Medicine

What is the fundamental flaw of the mental health system? Do service providers truly not care about clients, or cannot understand their perspectives, or do they lack ideas that could make a difference in their clients' lives? On average, more than 50% of survivors are dissatisfied with the services they have received, many drop out, commit suicide, experience frequent hospital readmissions, become homeless, get arrested, and rarely achieve the quality of life they might desire. Is this a function of "mental illness" and its "poor outlook," or a function of the inadequacy of the treatment programs offered? There is a wide gap between the purported success of so-called "evidence-based practices" and the difficult personal experiences and limited achievements that many survivors report. And yet, the history of mental health care includes many promising, humane, and successful ideas that once had their heyday but went by the wayside rather quickly. This workshop will present a range of such ideas introduced from 1848 to the 1990s.