In this current era when we seem on the verge of transformation I’m going to do posts about my experience with the reform movement called community mental health long ago. I address even great details in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.
Toward the Future
It was 1967 and I was finishing up my doctorate at Duke University. It was time to leave academia, get out into the “real world” and embrace a component of the reform movement following World War II.
One of the first programs of the Community Mental Health movement was beginning to hire in Baltimore. i went to take a look and was picked up at the airport by Carl Thistel, the lead community organizer. He took me on a whirlwind engaging tour of the city regaling me with the impact of poverty and drugs. I was interviewed by the engaging, enthusiastic director and the somnolent head psychologist who fell asleep while he was interviewing me. No matter. Carl had hooked me.
Plans Versus Reality
The movement had a compelling outline of its expected services and its rationale was engaging. We had the best of intentions but then there was reality. It wasn’t long before we learned that the mental health people in the State of Maryland didn’t really care and neither did the University which was managing the grant. They wanted the status and the money and to continue their business as usual.
On our side we had a bunch of enthusiastic, rebellious twenty somethings who included women dedicated to the Women’s Liberation movement, It was going to get very interesting.
It turned out no one really knew how to deliver services to impoverished inner city residents. The rationale sounded good but we had to figure out how to deal with reality. We devoted ourselves to the needs of these people we were to serve and had to figure out what they really needed and how we could deliver it – over the opposition of the State and the University personnel especially on the part of the older white men.
Likelong Commitment and Reservations
So, in my twenties I committed to supporting women’s liberation and harbored deep reservations about older white men even though now I are one.
In coming posts I’ll cover key elements as we hit the streets, climbed through dangerous high rise buildings and fought for what was needed. I’m also going to address the current crisis in the world and the transformation alternatives that may be coming.
Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt, Ph.D.
Available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.