Monday, March 23, 2009

"Dumping Grounds"


The Chicago Sun-Times has an article today by Carla K. Johnson about a tragedy occurring in a nursing home where an older man is beaten by a younger resident who has a mental illness.  She refers to how "nursing homes across the nation have become dumping grounds for young and middle-age people with mental illness."


Am I the only one bothered by the use of the term dumping grounds?  Like people with mental illness are trash, or are unworthy.  Yes, this was a tragic situation, but demonizing all people with mental illness as dangerous, violent ticking time bombs is yellow journalism at its worst.  I understand the point, that younger people with no where else to go are being sent to nursing homes, but must we resort to this poor use of terms?

Take a look at the headline currently being run: "Deadly mix: mentally ill in nursing homes".  If you have an opinion on this, please let the Sun-Times know.

6 comments:

jessa said...

I'm troubled by the term "dumping ground" as well, but for different reasons. I don't see this to much as the media demonizing the mentally ill so much as the media reflecting a demonization of the mentally ill that happens in mental health care itself. (This is not to say, of course, that the media do not do their own demonizing of the mentally ill.) What I find most troubling is that the term "dumping ground" is an accurate reflection of what is going on, somewhat akin to borderline personality disorder being the "garbage bin" diagnosis.

Retriever said...

Well, apart from the nursing homes trying to increase their occupancy rate, what this shows is the failure of "community care" for the mentally ill.

No one would want to bring back the horrors of some of the state mental hospitals, the snake pits, or warehouses for people with mental illness. Nevertheless, as the cant proliferates that everybody can be cared for in the community (communities that hate and fear or just patronize the severely mentally ill, and rarely provide even mandated services), ill people have the distressing tendency to fall apart, go manic, become suicidally depressed or agitated, and just have to be cared for somewhere other than the streets or a family home.

To me, it is horrible that young and middle aged able-bodied people would be confined in the cramped and depressing quarters of a nursing home. I don't mean to imply that they are adequate for elderly people either, just to stress that it would be especially demoralising for people who were already vulnerable emotionally.

I cared for my grandparents, parents and in-laws in old age and visited many of these places when some spent final stages of their lives there. What might not be oppressive to a bed-ridden, or wheelchair-bound frail elderly person would be like jail for a physically active person who was mentally ill.

People realize, for example, that if prisoners don't get enough exercise, they will explode so they are given some exercise.

Even if one is psychotic or manic, one doesn't stop needing the same physical and social opportunities as any other human being at one's age and stage of life. So any person who is not physically incapacitated will likely explode if confined.

Even the worst mental hospitals that I visited relatives in had places a person could exercise, walk, get fresh air, sometimes even swim. And were far more lively and offered more inducements to rejoin mainstream life.

Time to go rant at the newspaper now.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jessa. It's far more troubling to me that people with mental illness are being sent to/dumped in nursing homes than the terminology used to describe the practice. If I were sent to a nursing home, I would certainly feel like I had been dumped there. I can't imagine having to spend the rest of my life in a place like that.

FooFoo5 said...

I suspect the author lacks the capacity to appreciate the poignancy of the use of the term as a generalized euphemism for a purely pragmatic hell: we don't want to see them. "Demonetization" & trashing is merely theoretical without a visual cue. Mentally ill, on parole, homeless, infectious, objectionable, whatever you wish, are only monikers. Alternate housing, re-location, warehousing, protective-custody, "hospitalization," segregation, and "dumping ground" all smell the same to me. Especially when I can't see it.

The Shrink said...

". . . demonizing all people with mental illness as dangerous, violent ticking time bombs . . ."

In the UK I was reading how incidence of serious (violent) crime was the same in the general population as it is in folk with mental illness, thus mental illness per se doesn't correlate with escalated risk/propensity for serious violence.

I'd out of date with wider literature, but thought this was still accurate. Although specific abberant ideation and disturbed behavioural repertoires consequent to mood disorder can escalate risks, I thought that that attracting a diagnosis of a mental illness isn't associated with increased risk of violence to others, just through having a "mental illness" label (in the absence of other more specific risk elements of psychopathology).

The stigma you raise of equating mental illness to dangerousness is, to my mind, a far more pervasive and perturbing issue.

Anonymous said...

I think dumping is the correct term - the mentally ill are being thrown away, hidden and ignored by a society that can't take care of those who need it most. It's criminal.