Kronick’s Chronicles: Mental health crisis

Bob KronickFeature

“Support mental health or I will kill you.” Did this get your attention? (This was a note pinned to a wall at Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in the mid 1970s.) I recounted in a previous chronicle, community involvement in mental health is imperative for society’s survival.

Mental illness is in the news daily. The only problem is not much headway of getting a firm hold on what to do regarding the treatment and core of mental illness. Treatment modalities range from biological, behavioral and affective styles of treatment that are most apt to fit the presenting problem. Keep in mind that the presenting problem is not the real problem. All of this requires thoughtful, caring and smart helping professionals. This is not enough if the system and our society/culture is not supportive of mental health, mental health care and mental health treatment.


Mental illness has a long history in our country. Benjamin Rush M.D., a psychiatrist, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Asylums and new environments were created in isolated areas to keep the insane separate from the sane. The belief at this time was that the insane were vulnerable to the sane. Hence large institutions for the mentally ill were created. An asylum utilized the bureaucratic handling of human needs as a way of operating.

In 1966, noted filmmaker and Boston University law professor, Frederick Wiseman, made a film about the Bridgewater State Mental Hospital, an asylum for the criminally insane. The Titicut Follies, named after a talent show put on by the hospital staff, depicted life of the patient-inmates in that mental hospital and became the only film in American history to be banned for reasons other than obscenity or national security.

Wiseman’s films were authentic as he was in this hospital. What struck me was that the majority of the patients did not speak English. A scene of a force feeding typified this film.

From there came a move to place patients in large psychiatric hospitals. As is so often the case, politics played a major role. Psychotropic drugs became the key “treatment” of mental patients.

Does this remind you of the Sackler family, who are the owners of Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company whose main drug is Oxycontin, an opioid.

Although no members of the Sackler family have been arrested for the well over 100,000 provable deaths caused by the opioids produced from Purdue pharmaceutical, nearly all 50 states have filed lawsuits against Purdue and Sackler family members for their alleged roles in the opioid crisis.


This quote from a New York City police official regarding major crime offenders: “The majority of them seem like they need help with mental illness.” (4.21.24)

We have the history, we have the present and we can predict the future, so now what’s next? We as communities must find the answer.

Bob Kronick is professor emeritus University of Tennessee. Bob welcomes your comments or questions to


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