Posts Tagged ‘deinstitutionalization’

Kennedy’s Message on Mental Illness: 50 Years Later

“We must act to bestow the full benefits of our society on those who suffer from mental disabilities.” John F. Kennedy, 1963 When John F. Kennedy was a young man, his sister Rosemary, age 23, was given a lobotomy. Rosemary was thought to be mentally retarded, and had also developed behavioral problems—mood swings, violent temper tantrums—as she became a young adult. The lobotomy was a disaster. The previously lively Rosemary spent the rest of her long life in an institution, mentally and physically incapacitated. This experience no doubt motivated President Kennedy to send his “Special Message to the Congress on Mental Retardation and Mental Illness” 50 years ago, on February 5, 1963. (Listen to a sound recording of his remarks here.) Kennedy focused primarily on the need for better services for the mentally ill, specifically the need to replace the antiquated and often inhumane system of state-run psychiatric hospitals with community-based […]

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