The Snakepit And The Soloist

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What accounts for the difference in treatment modalities between the two main characters in “The Snake Pit” and “The Soloist” is the deinstitutionalization of people who suffer with mental health issues. The deinstitutionalization movement is the name given to the policy of moving severely mentally ill individuals out of large state institutions. The plan behind deinstitutionalization was that individuals who suffered with mental illness could lead more normal lives in the community then they could confined to an institution. The movies represent the strengths and weaknesses of both policies. In the movie “The Snake Pit” the main character Virginia Cunningham apparently suffers from some mental breakdown and is involuntarily committed to a mental health facility where she is treated with electroconvulsive shock treatments, physical restraints and sedation. In the movie “The Soloist”, the main character, Nathaniel Ayers is a middle age man apparently suffering from Schizophrenia. The unrelenting voices in his head torment him. He has been chronically homeless, estranged from his family and vulnerable for decades. One could argue that Mrs. Cunningham was in a safe environment albeit dank, dreary and prison-like, but she was “protected” from harm during this most difficult time in her life. Nathaniel spoke of being “mugged 14 times” and lived on “skidrow” in Los Angeles. Virginia was forced to accept treatment without benefit of informed consent. The physical restraints used were both lengthy and cruel and appeared to be done without provocation. With the exception of Dr. Kik, the staff was portrayed as cold, inflexible and tyrannical. In “The Soloist” the main character is representive of the new movement of community care that supports “self determination”. The local community center, LAMP however good intentioned, was woefully inadequate to handle the

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