“A Society that can afford atomic bombs can afford some good psychiatry,” say the authors in their conclusions to this book, after documenting in impressive detail that at present American society provides scandalously poor psychiatric care to the majority of lower-class patients.
This collaborative work by a sociologist and a psychiatrist is of great import for students of mental illness as well as for students of society. Highly competent in its scientific method, it is both brilliant and courageous in the analysis of data. The authors report on the relation between mental illness and class position on the basis of a large-scale research on the social structure of a community, the psychiatric patients of this community, the institutions where they are cared for and the psychiatrists treating them.
It is, of course, hardly news that because of prohibitive costs lower-class patients do not receive the same amount and quality of medical care as upper-class patients. But what is more important is that even where lower-class patients do spend the same amount of money, they receive less care, and a different type of care, than the upper-class patients. The problems raised by this study are:
(a) Is there greater susceptibility to mental illness in the lower class?
(b) Are patients in different classes given different types of treatment?
(c) Do lower-class patients receive a different type of treatment regardless of their ability to pay?
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