UCD Professor of Psychiatry, Patricia Casey, has today called for an inquiry into former psychiatric institutions. Writing in her “Mind and Meaning” column, in todays’ Irish Independent, she says that internationally psychiatry has a very poor record of treating those with mental illness with dignity and has often acted towards them in a manner that is politically rather than clinically motivated.
She points to well documented abuses in Leros, the USSR, the US and elsewhere in the past 40 years. These consisted of cruel and harsh treatment, collusion with the State in inventing new psychiatric illnesses and using those with learning disabilities to test new vaccines.
In Ireland extreme levels of abuse such as these have not been identified but writers and journalists have pointed to gross overcrowding and neglect as well as misdiagnosis among those who were long term residents of mental hospitals. Additionally, Ireland had one of the highest rates of institutionalisation in the world throughout the 1950’s and 60’s. Why was this? An inquiry would address the continuing concerns that have been expressed by some commentators about these institutions, in light of the issues raised by the Tuam children’s home.