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Breaking the circuit of control : lessons in public psychiatry from Italy and Franco Basaglia

Abstract : Much public discourse in the United States and in Canada acknowledges the dismal failure of the policy to 'deinstitutionalize' mental patients and to return them to some semblance of community living. The American Psychiatric Association has recently called for a reassessment of institutional alternatives--a call for a return to the asylum--in response to the needs of the new population of so-called homeless mentally ill. Here we contrast the failures of North American deinstitutionalization with the relative successes achieved in those regions of Italy where deinstitutionalization was grounded in a grassroots alternative psychiatry movement and professional and political coalition, Psichiatria Democratica. Democratic psychiatry challenged both the medical and the legal justifications for the segregative control of the 'mentally ill': madness as disease, and the constant over-prediction of the dangerousness of the mental patient. In addition, the movement challenged traditional cultural stereotypes about the meanings of madness, and was successful in gaining broad-based community support from political parties, labor unions, student groups, and artist collectives that were enlisted in the task of reintegrating the ex-mental patient. The Italian experiment, although flawed and riddled with its own inconsistencies and contradictions, offers evidence that deinstitutionalization can work without recreating in the community setting the same exclusionary logic that was the foundation of the asylum system.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, June 28, 2022 - 4:38:10 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, August 2, 2022 - 4:16:12 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-03707649, version 1


N Scheper-Hughes, Anne M Lovell. Breaking the circuit of control : lessons in public psychiatry from Italy and Franco Basaglia. M. Rowe; M. Lawless; K. Thompson; L. Davidson. Classics of Community Psychiatry: Fifty Years of Public Mental Health Outside the Hospital, Oxford University Press, 2011. ⟨hal-03707649⟩



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