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Conditions In Mental Hospitals

Creator: Harmon Wilkinson (author)
Date: April 10, 1946
Publication: The Christian Century
Source: Available at selected libraries

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We regret to say we are unable to view the disciplinary problem in training schools as simply the result of "more and more delinquents" committed to them. It seems rather to come largely from lack of activity for the children, from crowded buildings and little or no training for attendants in the responsibility which is theirs. In reports from nine training schools, it is explained that there is no program for training new employees -- no orientation in the elements of child psychology, or how to handle group situations, how to give directions to defective minds or to the development of a cottage recreation program.


There is far too much force and violence in daily use as a disciplinary measure. Though it may be true that hitting a patient results in dismissal, the catch is that this may result only "if upon interrogation the employee signs a written statement that he did strike a patient." We know two institutions where, admittedly, force dominates the day-to-day relations of attendants and patients. Corporal punishment is used in five of six training schools covered in returns from a recent questionnaire. And in the same ratio, disciplinary action is delegated by attendants to worker patients with supervision over them "only fair."


We do not believe the picture is a hopeless one with respect to obtaining a better class of attendant. Of course, higher wages are not enough. But they, along with shorter working hours, adequate living quarters for workers with families, sufficient recreational and off-duty facilities, the breaking down of feelings isolation from the community, will all help to bring better personnel.


We are convinced that appeal must be made to the religious community. A very great step forward will be taken in proper care and training of these "forgotten children" of God -- these who remain always in the happy and simple world of childhood -- when we can convince church people that here is an unopened area for full-time Christian service and when such people, fully trained, take up their lives with them.


National Mental Health Foundation,
Philadelphia, Pa.

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