The Treatment and Lives of the Mentally Handicapped During the Great Depression

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The Deadly 30’s

The Treatment and Lives of the Mentally Handicapped During the Great Depression

“The Great Depression was a worldwide economic slump of the 1930’s” (Fetzer; p.338). The Great Depression caused a catastrophic amount of grief and distress for the citizens of the United States. Some of these citizens, however, faced more problems which caused grief and distress than others. Among those citizens were the mentally ill. During the era of the Great Depression, the mentally handicapped were treated unfairly in almost every aspect of their lives; this included how society treated them, how they were treated medically, and even how their personal lives were affected.

Throughout the Great Depression the mentally disabled were treated harshly and were almost constantly being harassed by society. The mentally ill were treated in this cruel manner because they were seen as the cause of some of society’s problems of that day in age. Also, society viewed them as less capable of human being. A physician of that time by the name of Alexis Carrel stated, “The mentally ill should be humanely and economically disposed of in small euthanistic institutions supplied with the proper gases” (Freeman; “Treatment of the…”). Not only did Alexis Carrel feel this way, but so did many other people of the United States way

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due to the belief that mentally unstable people were incapable and insignificant human beings.

An excellent example of this view of the mentally handicapped can be found in John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, with the character Lennie. The other characters in this novel such as George and Curley treat Lennie as if he were a child all throughout the novel. George never lets him do any of the talking when t...

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...much worse than others, citizens like the mentally ill. The mentally handicapped treatment and lives during the Great Depression were awful. They were treated poorly in every imaginable part of their lives from the way society treated them to their health care to their own personal lives. It was a hard time the mentally ill faced.

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Works Cited

“Electroconclusive Therapy (ECT).”Definition. Mayo Foundation, 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 1 Apr.


Fetzer, Scott. The World Book Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. Chicago, IL: World Book, 2009. Print. G

Freeman, Shanna. “How Lobotomies Work.” HowStuffWorks., 27 Oct.

2008. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

Lee, Angela. “Treatment of the Mentally Challenged during the Great Depression.”

N.p., 13 Nov. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. New York: Penguing, 1933. Print.

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