Social Work in Canada
It is sad that in our society, conformity and assimilation have led to schisms in our communities. The Calgary Case Study is one such example. Mentally ill people who are marginalized face a myriad of struggles that are belittled and poorly understood. Those of us who are in a position to make a positive contribution to the lives of mentally ill community members, would rather choose to spend our efforts on more esthetically pleasing “charities”. It seems that mainstream society would rather see the issues surrounding the mentally ill simply go away and remain ignored. As social workers, it is our responsibility to make certain that this does not continue. In the following pages we will explore the issues, roles of the community, and the larger questions that arise from creating awareness on the issue of the mentally ill population. The Calgary case study is useful in demonstrating the possibilities that community action and awareness can create.
It is interesting to note that over the past few hundred years, the mentally ill have been under the public microscope. The treatment and intervention into the lives of the mentally ill have come full circle. The homeless “lunatics” of the first half of the millennium were, by the 1700’s being institutionalized. This process had it’s major ups and downs, while at times it was publicly funded, ending up a state run operation by the 1900’s. During the time of de-institutionalization, mentally ill people were afforded more supposed dignity and personal freedoms. This however, ha led to the increase in the situation we see in Calgary-joblessness, homelessness, and social disgust for the people themselves. See a simplified version of the history of the mentally ill in Figure 1.
1 Mentally ill living on streets 2. Public fear and outcry calls
and ignored by society (up to approx. 1700’s) for intervention by gov’ts (1700-1950’s)
4.De-institutionalization and privatization 3. Institutionalization and Gov’t
of care. intervention of care (1700’s – 1950’s)
Before we can fully realize the potential of the Calgary situation we must first understand the issues involved. We have two differing sides to the issue, and the two sides are polarized as to what the issues really are. The first side involves the mentally ill themselves. Their issues are:
Homelessness (people of the “have not”)
No long term care
Cost of living outweighs their limited (if any) income
Poor mental/health care
Nothing to do/unaware of their potential contribution to society
No one seems to care/no one wants them in their community
They are at an age where they are most capable and productive (adulthood)
The community at large seems to be having the...