It is sad that in our society, conformity and assimilation have led to schisms in our communities. The Calgary Case Study is one such example. Mentally ill people who are marginalized face a myriad of struggles that are belittled and poorly understood. Those of us who are in a position to make a positive contribution to the lives of mentally ill community members, would rather choose to spend our efforts on more esthetically pleasing charities. It seems that mainstream society would rather see the issues surrounding the mentally ill simply go away and remain ignored.
As social workers, it is our responsibility to make certain that this does not continue. In the following pages we will explore the issues, roles of the community, and the larger questions that arise from creating awareness on the issue of the mentally ill population. The Calgary case study is useful in demonstrating the possibilities that community action and awareness can create.
It is interesting to note that over the past few hundred years, the mentally ill have been under the public microscope. The treatment and intervention into the lives of the mentally ill have come full circle. The homeless lunatics of the first half of the millennium were, by the 1700s being institutionalized.
This process had its major ups and downs, while at times it was publicly funded, ending up a state run operation by the 1900s. During the time of de-institutionalization, mentally ill people were afforded more supposed dignity and personal freedoms. This however, ha led to the increase in the situation we see in Calgary-joblessness, homelessness, and social disgust for the people themselves. See a simplified version of the history of the mentally ill in Figure 1.
1 Mentally ill living on streets 2. Public fear and outcry calls
and ignored by society (up to approx.
1700s) for intervention by govts (1700-1950s)
4.De-institutionalization and privatization3. Institutionalization and Govt
of care. intervention of care (1700s 1950s)
Before we can fully realize the potential of the Calgary situation we must first understand the issues involved. We have two differing sides to the issue, and the two sides are polarized as to what the issues really are. The first side involves the mentally ill themselves.
Their issues are:
Homelessness (people of the have not)
Cost of living outweighs their limited (if any) income
Nothing to do/unaware of their potential contribution to society
No one seems to care/no one wants them in their community
They are at an age where they are most capable and productive (adulthood)
The community at large seems to be having the following issues:
Frustration with mentally ill homeless littering the street (this is my choice of words)
Threatened property values concerning the property owners
They want the Government to take responsibility for the situation
Thriving area wants the homeless to be relocated
Retirement and family area wished to remain such (age and generation gap between this group and the other)
High cost neighborhood (people of the have)
The first issue I would address as a social worker would be the poor health/mental health of the street people. If there is a problem with medication not being taken, then that issue must be addressed. It seems that many people are living without proper access to the Medicare that we all take for granted, and that access should be moved into the community. This move would not only benefit the mentally ill, but the rest of the community as well. Community health centers encompass the entire range of people that live in this downtown area, and are a great place for people to be intermingled instead of segregated.
It is obvious from looking at the issues concerning both groups of people that a giant schism has occurred between them.
It may be that preconceived notions or biases have taken over the mindset of one or both factions. As a social worker, the first thing that should be addressed is that fact. Educating the two groups on the value of the other is a great place to start. Once the awareness process is begun, many other useful tools can also be implemented.
The have community is made up of a large proportion of retired people. This can be seen as .