My Story of Mental Health Warehousing

I was a skinny and reluctant social worker when I first started out. I was working through an eating disorder. Initially, I didn’t really believe that taking home a middle-class salary for nickel and diming those less fortunate was my idea of contributing to the world.

I guess, I’d gotten the idea that that was what the field was like during interviews I’d held with middle-class white women who worked down the street in government agencies during a social welfare class. I’d set up residence where I was finishing up my schooling, in Camden New Jersey. I needed money to stay independent from my parents.

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How to Work with Issues of Mental Health Warehousing as a Professional

Early in my career as a social worker, I couldn’t even see the phenomenon of mental health warehousing let alone know how address the issue in a relationship. My college texts had promoted the mainstream eugenic presumptions associated with mental illness. I didn’t know what was needed to recover from things like psychosis, personality disorders, or addictions and live a fulfilling life other than to tell the client to take their medication.

 

Now, in my twenty-three years of experience working in the system, I have seen many other workers not really learn about the effects of mental health warehousing. It’s as if those of us who work in the field slept during social psychology lessons of Stanley Milligram and the Stanford Prison Experiments. And many of us who do understand the dehumanization process associated with warehousing may abandon the work for private practice. It’d nice it they left a little space in their practice for warehoused individuals. Perhaps some do.

 

Believe me, I never imagined that mental health warehousing would happen to a conscientious person who excelled in the mental health professional like myself. I used to think I was empathetic towards clients because that’s what always impressed others about me. Now I think I was just sympathetic and encapsulated! Indeed, though it could happen to most us, we rarely think that way. When I did land in warehousing, it was a real education.

 

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