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The Snakes and I: a short history

During the Middle Ages, it is said, one way to “cure” insanity was to throw the insane person into a pit of snakes.  The theory was that, since doing so to a sane person would surely cause insanity, doing so to an insane person would have the opposite effect.


My career began in the 1940’s/50’s in those large awful warehouses called state hospitals, spanned the 60’s and 70’s during the “Camelot” years of mental health care when the Kennedy monies helped fund community mental health centers, such as the one I helped build in rural Wisconsin.  I saw those disappear in the 80’s and 90’s when public monies dried up, and the seriously mentally ill, now no longer receiving services, let alone food and shelter, became the homeless.


It is a source of profound sadness for me that we as a country, as a people, have actually gone backwards.  The plight of those needy and vulnerable populations is worse than when I began over half a century ago.  The humane methods we had worked decades to develop have largely been lost, though they demonstrably improved the care of our mentally and emotionally ill fellow citizens. The methods go unused as we force increasing numbers of emotionally suffering persons into the degrading though corporate-profitable dependence on disabling medications and/or the scourge of homelessness.  Public policies do not exist, and our practitioners are profit-driven.  Insanity.


 This circular journey we have traveled is truly pitiless …..and pitiful.

Vilma Ginzberg

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