Hello, I came across this special message that John F. Kennedy wrote to Congress 50 yrs ago this month. We have come a long way since this message, but I feel we still have to stay proactive in finding better preventative measures and treatments for issues of Mental Health. As most people know, the Kennedy family was affected by Rosemary's prefrontal lobotomy at age 23, which left her permanently incapacitated. I'm sure that is where his incentive for this message came from. I'm touched and grateful to read this 50 years later, knowing that he cared enough to advocate for the Mentally Disabled.
Thanks for visiting,
Special Message to the Congress on Mental Illness and Mental Retardation
To the Congress of the United States:
From the earliest days of the Public Health Service to the latest research of the National Institutes of Health, the Federal Government has recognized its responsibilities to assist, stimulate and channel public energies in attacking health problems. Infectious epidemics are now largely under control. Most of the major diseases of the body are beginning to give ground in man's increasing struggle to find their cause and cure. But the public understanding, treatment and prevention of mental disabilities have not made comparable progress since the earliest days of modern history.
Yet mental illness and mental retardation are among our most critical health problems. They occur more frequently, affect more people, require more prolonged treatment, cause more suffering by the families of the afflicted, waste more of our human resources, and constitute more financial drain upon both the public treasury and the personal finances of the individual families than any other single condition.
There are now about 800,000 such patients in this Nation's institutions--600,000 for mental illness and over 200,000 for mental retardation. Every year nearly 1,500,000 people receive treatment in institutions for the mentally ill and mentally retarded. Most of them are confined and compressed within an antiquated, vastly overcrowded, chain of custodial State institutions. The average amount expended on their care is only $4 a day--too little to do much good for the individual, but too much if measured in terms of efficient use of our mental health dollars. In some States the average is less than $2 a day.
The total cost to the taxpayers is over $2.4 billion a year in direct public outlays for services--about $ 1.8 billion for mental illness and $600 million for mental retardation. Indirect public outlays--in welfare costs and in the waste of human resources--are even higher. But the anguish suffered both by those afflicted and by their families transcends financial statistics--particularly in view of the fact that both mental illness and mental retardation strike so often in childhood, leading in most cases to a lifetime of disablement for the patient and a lifetime of hardship for his family.
This situation has been tolerated far too long. It has troubled our national conscience--but only as a problem unpleasant to mention, easy to postpone, and despairing of solution. The Federal Government, despite the nation-wide impact of the problem, has largely left the solutions up to the States. The States have depended on custodial hospitals and homes. Many such hospitals and homes have been shamefully understaffed, overcrowded, unpleasant institutions from which death too often provided the only firm hope of release.
The time has come for a bold new approach. New medical, scientific, and social tools and insights are now available. A series of comprehensive studies initiated by the Congress, the Executive Branch and interested private groups have been completed and all point in the same direction.
Governments at every level--Federal, State, and local--private foundations and individual citizens must all face up to their responsibilities in this area. Our attack must be focused on three major objectives:
First, we must seek out the causes of mental illness and of mental retardation and eradicate them. Here, more than in any other area, "an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure." For prevention is far more desirable for all concerned. It is far more economical and it is far more likely to be successful. Prevention will require both selected specific programs directed especially at known causes, and the general strengthening of our fundamental community, social welfare, and educational programs which can do much to eliminate or correct the harsh environmental conditions which often are associated with mental retardation and mental illness. The proposals contained in my earlier Message to the Congress on Education and those which will be contained in a later message I will send on the Nation's Health will also help achieve this objective.
Second, we must strengthen the underlying resources of knowledge and, above all, of skilled manpower which are necessary to mount and sustain our attack on mental disability for many years to come. Personnel from many of the same professions serve both the mentally ill and the mentally retarded. We must increase our existing training programs and launch new ones; for our efforts cannot succeed unless we increase by several-fold in the next decade the number of professional and subprofessional personnel who work in these fields. My proposals on the Health Professions and Aid for Higher Education are essential to this goal; and both the proposed Youth Employment program and a national service corps can be of immense help. We must also expand our research efforts, if we are to learn more about how to prevent and treat the crippling or malfunction of the mind.
Third, we must strengthen and improve the programs and facilities serving the mentally ill and the mentally retarded. The emphasis should be upon timely and intensive diagnosis, treatment, training, and rehabilitation so that the mentally afflicted can be cured or their functions restored to the extent possible. Services to both the mentally ill and to the mentally retarded must be community based and provide a range of services to meet community needs.
For the full message click the link below