Unforgotten–25 Years After Willowbrook

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Yet in the year 2016, not much has changed for those who have mental illness.

Read more This is a link to a story in the Charlotte Observer if you choose to read it the link will give you a 48-hour pass.

This is one of the most disturbing movies surrounding human behavior and treatment I have ever seen.  Watching the inhumane treatment of human beings with disabilities was gut-wrenching.  I found it very interesting that some parents were either unaware of their children’s diagnosis or simply followed the advice of “society”.  Unfortunately not only in the 1950s did this type of encouragement prevail but it is still apparent today.  There are many adults in group homes because society has put such a strong emphasis on looks and behavior that there are families that would gladly pay for their child to be “awarded” to a group home versus dealing with the child/adult in the home environment.

When the family members speak of the visitation at the institution it almost sounds like the introduction to a horror film.  The young lady who speaks of the screams eluding from the building but not knowing where the screams emerged from is frightening in and of itself.   How unfortunate that the workers did not or simply did not care to reach out for additional funding to provide adequate services.  Basically, no one was watching the barn when patients were identified with broken bones on a regular basis.  I shudder to think about the atmosphere of this facility and the lack of concern that a physician could tell a concerned parent to shut up when asked about the care of a loved one.

Bernard’s story of being misdiagnosed it utterly amazing.  I ask myself why would an institution seek to keep a patient under lock and key especially one who is not mentally ill and does not cause harm to himself or others.  Was the facility receiving funds for each patient or bed that was occupied?  What a tragedy for this young man to have wasted so much of his life in a mental institution when he had a case of cerebral palsy.

This movie is a must-see for all who are interested in pursuing a career in the Human Services field.  This is a catastrophic picture of the necessity of proper diagnosis, oversight and a genuine desire to help those less fortunate.  This movie should help one understand societal roles and the demands society places on what’s normal and what it acceptable.  This movie gives insight to the lack of courage family members have when dealing with other family members who have severe mental health issues.  Additionally, this movie should serve a strong reminder that we must reach the unreachable and protect the lost.  Human Service workers must stand in the gap and form a bridge for the family and family member that requires assistance.

It’s a sad state of affairs when we discount those who are different from us or those who no longer live up to our standards of normalcy.  We must make a concerted effort to bring together help not only for the individual that has the struggles but we must include a program for the family members to be able to walk through the process and continue to be a source of support.  For example, the woman who speaks openly about her embarrassment of Patty the lady with Down syndrome.  If only she had been connected to the proper institution and been able to learn about the disease and how to cope how much more effective she would have been to assist Patty through her struggles.  Often times we don’t take into account that someone with disabilities actually has feelings and can tell when they are being pushed off, walked away from, or discounted as a full-fledged human being with the ability to learn and manage some type day to day-to-day living.

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