"For a few days in September--after a psychotic gunman killed 12 people in Washington's Navy Yard--we were forced to ask ourselves, yet again, how we treat the seriously mentally ill in America and whether we need to rethink our policies and assumptions. No one is better equipped to address those questions than E. Fuller Torrey." --Sally Satel, Wall Street Journal
"This is a powerful book on how to prevent the high profile tragedies that galvanize national attention, and the thousands of other tragedies that pass under the radar. I highly recommend it to all advocates and policymakers who care about mental illness."
"This wise and unflinching book is an object lesson in good intentions gone awry on a grand scale. It should be widely read." --New York Times
"An important book by a refreshingly candid author who shares his vast knowledge in the interests of the needy." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Torrey is the conscience of the country and its most articulate spokesperson when it comes to public mental health care. His latest installment, American Psychosis, is a scathing analysis of the abject failure of U.S. mental health care policy written in his usual lucid and compelling style. Torrey is the Dorthea Dix of our time." -- Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, President Elect, American Psychiatric Association; Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons; and Director, New York State Psychiatric Institute
"The first time I heard Torrey speak at a meeting of psychiatrists I was so offended I got up and left. Five years later I realized that everything he had said was true. This book will, I believe, offend many people; hopefully it will take them less time to recognize the truth of what Torrey has written." -- Alan A. Stone, MD, Former President of the American Psychiatric Association, Touroff-Glueck Professor of Law and Psychiatry in the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Medicine, Harvard University
"Torrey's superb new book is a devastating indictment of America's mental health 'system,' a story of good intentions gone disastrously awry. Torrey combines a deep professional knowledge of severe mental illness with an unparalleled understanding of the politics and policy of mental health. His lively writing weaves together powerful and poignant examples of the problem with hard-headed and yet compassionate solutions to one of America's greatest public policy tragedies." -- Stuart M. Butler, PhD, Distinguished Fellow and Director, Center for Policy Innovation, The Heritage Foundation
"With persuasive facts and gripping, tragic examples, Torrey documents what state psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, and jails have in common: millions of seriously mentally ill people treated inhumanely and inadequately, causing deterioration in the care of the most vulnerable. He examines the lessons learned from mental illness service programs over the past 50 years and concludes that we should greatly expand the best, such as proven programs in Wisconsin and New York City, and eliminate the worst, such as for-profit mental illness providers like nursing and board and care homes. American Psychosis is an unprecedented, invaluable elaboration of how to alter a national tragedy." -- Sidney M. Wolfe, MD, Public Citizen Health Research Group, Co-author of Worst Pills, Best Pills, and Editor, WorstPills.org
"Vintage Torrey: Comprehensive, deep, and thoughtful; biting and to the point; yet hopeful and hoping for change." -- John A. Talbott, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine
"The author successfully weaves in political, social, and medical influences of the time, permitting readers to comprehend the challenges faced during this period. It is clear the author has a passion for this subject, and he provides solid conclusions that should leave readers wondering when, if not now, is the appropriate time to overhaul the system once again." -Steven T. Herron, MD, Doody's Health Sciences Book Review
Reviewer: Steven T Herron, MD (CPI/Assurance Health and Wellness)
Description: Most of those familiar with the mental health system in the United States are aware of the challenges faced when working with those with psychiatric illnesses. In order to appreciate where we are now, it is important to understand where we came from.
Purpose: Given the half-century that has passed since President Kennedy signed the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act in 1963, the author explores the reasoning behind the law, its intention, and its unfortunate consequences.
Audience: Though intended for individuals in the field of mental health, this work is potentially useful for anyone interested in the state of the current mental health system and how those responsible for its inception envisioned it would develop in the wake of significantly reducing state psychiatric hospital populations.
Features: Reading more as a narrative than a textbook, this work initially provides some history regarding the Kennedy family and travels fluidly to the architects of the "new" system to its conclusion with the author's 10 "solutions" for the current troubled mental health system. Additionally, there are some interesting black-and-white photographs that allow readers to associate names with faces.
Assessment: This book provides interesting insights into the reasoning behind the push to revamp the mental health system in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Since many of the players who were heavily involved in this decision making process are no longer living, this book allows us to appreciate the process through the eyes of those working tirelessly to overhaul the outdated system. Though the book is brief, the author successfully weaves in political, social, and medical influences of the time, permitting readers to comprehend the challenges faced during this period. It is clear the author has a passion for this subject, and he provides solid conclusions that should leave readers wondering when, if not now, is the appropriate time to overhaul the system once again.
Torrey (executive director, Stanley Medical Research Inst.; psychiatry, Uniformed Services Univ. of the Health Sciences) continues to argue that deinstitutionalization of mental patients has precipitated the deterioration in U.S. psychiatric care, simultaneously flooding communities with untreated and/or homeless populations of the mentally ill. This is not a new argument for Torrey (The Insanity Offense: How America's Failure To Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens; Out of the Shadows: Confronting America's Mental Illness Crisis), who has spoken out about the issue for years. The book does provide additional historical background on the genesis and collapse of the community mental health movement. The author traces the beginnings of the movement to President John F. Kennedy and his family's guilt about Rosemary Kennedy's lobotomy. Kennedy wrested control of psychiatric institutions from the states, instead creating federal programs that were bound to fail because they were virtually unenforceable and provided no backup support systems for patients who were cast out of hospitals. The leading luminaries at the National Institute of Mental Health successfully lobbied for federalization, thereby leaving the mental health treatment system in shambles. Torrey helpfully offers solutions, maintaining that successful care can come through community mental illness centers, not community mental health centers. In the end, his argument is convincing. VERDICT This powerful polemic presents a compelling case for the reform of the mental illness treatment system.—Lynne Maxwell, West Virginia Univ. Coll. of Law Lib., Morgantown
Psychiatrist Torrey (The Insanity Offense: How America's Failure to Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens, 2008, etc.) returns to the battleground of reform with another book about the inability of government agencies and private institutions to care well for the severely mentally ill. The author names individuals who, in his opinion, are responsible for the disaster of mental health care across the United States. Here, Torrey focuses more on the historical reasons for the sad situation, with special emphasis on the family of President John F. Kennedy. Since Kennedy's sister Rosemary was developmentally disabled and increasingly unstable as she aged, the new president had a high awareness of hidden mental illness problems. But his push for federal mental illness legislation, however well-intended, dismantled the state-based mental hospital system without sensible alternatives in place. As a result, Torrey explains, what became known as "deinstitutionalization" placed tens of thousands of severely mentally ill patients in communities entirely unprepared to care for them. Torrey excoriates the leadership at the National Institute for Mental Health for their inability to anticipate the disaster and subsequent failure to admit their mistakes and take corrective action. After devoting about two-thirds of the text to the historical record, Torrey offers a chapter titled "Dimensions of the Present Disaster, 2000-2013," in which he lucidly explains how community jails and state prisons have become the new centers for warehousing severely mentally ill individuals. The final chapter is filled with sensible recommendations that could be funded by current misguided expenditures that Torrey estimates at about $140 billion annually. The author makes clear that the solutions will require not only vast funding, but also a long-term commitment by trained caregivers, plus family members who insist that their mentally ill relatives be committed to institutions when dangerous to themselves and innocent bystanders. An important book by a refreshingly candid author who shares his vast knowledge in the interests of the needy.