Institutionalized: Mental Health Behind Bars

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America’s relationship with its mentally ill population continues to suffer as a result of inadequacies in the country’s mental health care system.

For the mentally ill in Chicago, the effects of this inadequacy are felt on a magnified scale, as budget cuts and a lack of community-based mental health resources have left these individuals with minimal support. More often than not, this means being repeatedly swept up into the criminal justice system for low-level, non-violent crimes

VICE News takes an immersive look at this issue by going inside the Cook County Jail and speaking with community members on Chicago’s south side.

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Written by lena

Foodie, Performer, Water Protector, Avid Baker, Syndicate Aggregator. I probably still live in my mom's basement.


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  1. Wow very sobering and eye-opening. Appreciate the efforts to put these stories and facts together~

  2. They're trying to get help this makes me so sad . We live in a civilized society and yet we coexist with this.

  3. This is a America ! Get yo' Money, Black man. Black people need to give up Christianity / White Jesus—-that's what has fucked us up ! So invested in the White oppressor's religion ! We have no home, no generational wealth, no freedom / mobility, mental health issues—-but we still praying to White Jesus !

    All by design and part of the New Jim Crow, Michell Alexander interrogates in her book.

  4. 150,000.00 bond for stealing pants. That is our justice system at work.  Institutionalize a person so that those people contracted to run these institutions can make some money.

  5. Why are so many people becoming mentally ill?  I know there are some scientific probably answers.  I believe it has to do with generations of oppression and poverty. If pregnant women are exposed to violence, lack of food and ingesting chemicals into her body can cause a fetus to develope abnormally.  So shall we see about that? This had to go back a few generations so that it beginning to affect so many people today. When did things start to go bad in this country. Was it WW l, ll, or the time of the depression? Was this planned so that in the future the powers that be can control a group of people? Was this new world order planned years ago?

  6. I feel this video. I'm bipolar 1 rapid cycle. Also struggled with addiction. And still struggle with recovery. Just got out 8 day psych hold . been committed 4 times since October for suicidal thoughts and attempts . but doing way better since then. It's a hard struggle but have good therapist , psych, and iop helping me.

  7. I am a Belgian social worker and I can't believe that I'd have to assess someone's mental health in a short conversation with a checklist. That is insane in itself. That is not possible, unless you're only looking for obvious signs. Besides, people with no access to mental health care on the outside might not even realize that they're clinically depressed or that they have anxiety because no one ever told them. They self medicated and that's that. This is stunning to me.

    EDIT: Also, which social worker hears a man say 'I just need to die' and is just coldly like 'that's not going to happen'. Plus, when he talked about the fact that no one likes him, I don't think he was talking about his charges. It's an intrisic feeling and yes, you can say what she said and then you give some attention to his feelings. Who trained this woman?

  8. It's all wrong.. mental people don't know they're confused, how to treat their mental symptoms and feelings.. many come from poverty so that makes them ignorant to their status of living and overcoming their pain.

  9. Surprised I haven’t seen this before. Well done.
    I’m an upper middle class, educated, 30 year old woman suffering from mental health issues (depression/ anxiety).

    My GP doctor won’t treat me. Won’t refer me to a psychiatrist who might treat me.
    I pay $300/ visit twice a month to see a psychiatrist for therapy and medication. I spend $900 out of pocket each month to almost feel normal.
    That’s a lot of money!
    WTH do people do? Most people couldn’t afford to pay that much out of pocket and THAT is crazy!

  10. At the end of the day, they still broke the law. Yes, their punishment and treatment should be revised. But no, they should NOT be pitied or excuses for their behavior. If I ever decided to commit a crime, I would pretend to be mental too.

  11. "Mass shootings aren't caused by guns, they're caused by mental health problems"
    "Also let's cut funding to mental health facilities"

  12. A guy who stole a pair of jeans has a $150,000 bond, while my sister's ex, spends one night in jail for beating the shit out of her 6 months ago? THAT'S FUCKED UP.

  13. The guy at 7:06 looks like Count Olaf, and even though he seems really nice and caring for the people under his care, so did Olaf.

    Just sayin'… Watch out for Olookalikes

  14. I work in a home for mentally disabled/Ill adults and I know for fact if they didn't have someone caring for them they would be on the streets, jail, or worse. It's so sad how little people understand or want to. It's much easier to treat people as undesirables and cast them aside then actually care about them as people.

  15. Other than the entire prison system being horrible, and the criminal laws and sentencing laws responsible for that equally bad – I don't know if this type of random group therapy is helping… or completely undermining the intelligence of people that are forced to participate in the sessions.

    I know from my legal work that most of these methodologies and tactics to supposedly "reduce recidivism" or "improve mental health" are not evidence-based. It just sort of "seems like a good idea at the time" and so they apply it – scientific method and actual effect on mental health be damned. Every prison has a different discharge system – most don't have one at all. I think that once we reform all of these laws, prison needs to work like a contract. You go in and immediately get a caseworker who knows you and your circumstances personally. You are assessed for health (all kinds), BOTH sides sign a contract so you know exactly what to expect from beginning to end – including the rights and responsibilities of each side.

    This is so wrong. Its 2018 and this is unacceptable.

  16. I’m manic bipolar just because you’re bipolar doesn’t mean you wanna kill yourself. I hope that young man gets the right help that he needs and this place is definitely not the place for him. He said nobody likes him and that’s what he thinks But I like u. 🙏🏼

  17. That's a wonderful woman she don't understand how great she really is an how much help she's really giving my hats off to u babe

  18. not a good idea to tell this type of person you are suicidal life gets worse,,, they put you on your own and keep waking you up every few hours all night…can take your clothes bedding leave you in a strip cell…

  19. Killin' off all the crazies would save a LOT of money. Just give everybody a rope and ladder on admission before "lights out" time and let nature take its course. ta-da! Problem solved. No more overcrowding.

  20. I didn’t know Cook County Jail was a real jail.. I’m a theatre kid (the jail in the musical Chicago is the Cook County Jail)😂

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