Late to the party, but here is my post pertaining to the final segment of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
One of the interesting things that I found throughout the novel is the consistent and quite unregulated nature which mental institutions prescribed treatments to their charges. Over the course of the novel treatment is more of a punishment to discourage bad behavior by the inmates rather than a way to try and honestly treat mental conditions. Much like the poorhouses of Yor that sequestered the ill and unproductive of society away to reduce the inconvenience they cause so too are the asylum workers taking steps to sequester and pacify the chronics they deem incurable.
The methods employed in this endeavor are recognized as fairly barbaric in our times. Being that they were in large part employed to rob what little agency the mentally ill still maintained and reduced them to a state which couldn’t justifiably be called life.
Scanlon, Martini, and Chief all appear to recognize this when McMurphy returns from his lobotomy with all of them maintaining that whatever the thing that returns from the operating table is, it isn’t McMurphy. Rather than taking an approach to actually helping and remedying his obviously deep seated psychological problems are Nurse Ratched and the Doctor take the easy route and simply destroy him.
Too often this appears to be the case with mental institutions, especially in the past. And though by and large it seems that this pernicious aspect of mental treatment has been eliminated in the United States I feel that we’ve returned to the days of the poor houses where we condemn those among us who suffer from mental illness and mental maladapted to modern society to suffer on the fringes with no hope of remedy.
Statistics show that roughly 1 in 5 Americans suffers from mental illness, and of those roughly 40 million Americans 56% don’t receive treatment (MHA policy data). If we want to honestly confront and understand the nature and workings of our minds we need to take adequate steps towards treating those who suffer due to mental illness. Not by sequestering them in poor-houses, not by lobotomizing and robbing them of sentience, and not by ignoring their struggles and leaving them to fend for themselves. We need to expand our outreach in communities and families affected to bolster our understanding of mental health. To provide treatment where we can and giving accommodations where we need to; that we may integrate the neurodiverse into our society so that all may benefit from their presence.