Mentally Ill Citizens Caged in China and America, by Mary Neal
Excerpts form The Wall Street Journal
January 16, 2008
The family of Wang Guocheng kept him in a cage (pictured) for three years after he stabbed a neighbor to death. The story says Wang voluntarily stayed in the cage. He etched the white lines on the walls with his fingers.
“I kept my son in an iron cage for more than six years,” says 53-year-old Zhang Meiying, in Gaomi City , Shandong province.
The practice is less common in cities where higher incomes and greater awareness of mental illness have led to progress. But the caging still does take place, sometimes under a doctor’s or local official’s orders.
The government says it does cover the cost of care from some of the mentally ill from the countryside. As of last year, 70,000 patients had received free medication and 6,000 patients were hospitalized at no cost, the China ’s Ministry of Health said.
America also cages its chronically mentally ill citizens, not in their family homes, but in the nation's prisons. We have laws in place to protect mentally ill citizens from enforced mental health treatment. These laws are meant to protect citizens' rights, but unfortunately, they also act as a determent to needed psychiatric treatment for those who are beyond making their own reasonable mental health decisions. When families and neighbors notice excited delirium in mental patients, their appeal to government authorities to hospitalize the mental patients in crisis are often rejected unless and until the afflicted mental patient commits a criminal offense. Once that happens, the mental patient is less likely to be hospitalized than he is to join America 's 1.25 million mentally ill prisoners.
Below is a link to an NPR interview with Nicholas Zamiska addressing the practice of caging mentally ill citizens in China.
CAGING THE MENTALLY ILL IN CHINA [7 min 3 sec]
January 22, 2008 ~ Families in rural China are caging mentally ill relatives because they can't afford proper health care. The story was first reported in the Wall Street Journal. Reporter Nicholas Zamiska joins us to talk about how mostly rural families are dealing with China 's broken health care system.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Chinese government says it does not cover the cost of mental health care for citizens from the countryside. Therefore, the rural Chinese families are doing what they can to protect their acute mental patients and their own lives and the lives of their neighbors. Do you think that unless we make drastic improvements in how lunacy calls are handled in America, it may become necessary for concerned families of acute mental patients to follow the lead of Chinese parents of schizorphrenic adult children and build cages for such afflicted relatives in their homes? Too often, when police answer distress calls involving mental patients, officers kill or seriously injure mental patients by Taser or gunshot.
Not enough is being done to guarantee the safe transport of mental patients to facilites for their containment and care, when needed. In fact, when American police answer lunacy calls from distressed families, it is unlikely that the mental patients will be transported to a hospital at all. Frequently, when frightened family members call police, their mentally ill relatives who survive the arrest are imprisoned as criminals, rather than treated for their conditions. The final result is that Americans with mental disabilities end up in the same place as the rural Chinese peasants with this problem - in cages.
In many ways, the Chinese who are caged at home may be better off than the 1.25 million mentally ill Americans who are currently incarcerated. The rural Chinese families do not kill their relatives in Restraint Chairs or use Taser guns to control their behavior while caged, as sometimes happens to incarcerated mentally ill Americans. The Chinese peasants' cages are usually situated in common living areas of their homes, so those imprisoned therein do not suffer alone in solitary confinement, naked to prevent self-inflicted injuries and suicide.
Human rights is an important issue in the U.S.A., which has even waged war to protect the human rights of world citizens. Therefore, the abuse and deaths of mentally ill citizens in custody is a source of embarrassment for my country. It is such an embarrassment, in fact, that the secret incarceration and wrongful death of my paranoid schizophrenic brother, Larry Neal, remains secret, except for his family's efforts to notify the public of this atrocity and seek accountability in court by suing the family's wrongful death attorneys, the (Johnny) Cochran Firm. His family accuses this law firm of defrauding Larry's family after his death in Shelby County Jail on August 1, 2003, in order to protect that defendant from investigation and accountability. See http://wrongfuldeathoflarryneal.com.
Despite the family's efforts to get full disclosure about Larry's secret arrest and jail death for over five years, his family is yet denied all official records, any explanation, excuse, apology, or investigation related to his demise. Larry was a ward of the State of Tennessee where he lived for 20+ years as in inpatient in Western State Mental Hospital. Western State was downsized in the early 1970's, when many U.S. mental hospitals closed altogether, emptying acute mental patients into the streets of America to suffer homelessness, prison, and death. The nation's mental hospitals continue to close today. Others suffer serious shortages of hospital staff, and patients often live in overcrowded conditions.
Larry Neal was one of many chronically ill mental patients, United States citizens, who suffered and died in circumstances worse than mentally ill Chinese peasants who are caged at home.
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill