Graduation Date


Document Type

Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Humanities and Cultural Studies

Department or Program Chair

Chase B. Clow, PhD

First Reader

Gay Lynch, PhD


Our country’s healthcare system is at a moral crossroads. The way we treat those whom we call “the homeless” is deplorable. The majority of the homeless are mentally ill and need treatment. Our country needs to treat those with the severe brain diseases of schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, and bi-polar disorder just as we would Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Those with severe mental illness, who have no insight into their illness, should not be allowed to dictate their own treatment. If a homeless person is brought to San Francisco General Hospital and is found to be a schizophrenic in psychiatric distress, and concurrently found to have active tuberculosis, this patient can be forced to be treated for tuberculosis, but is not forced to be treated for schizophrenia. Both of these diseases have serious consequences, not only for the patient, but for the public. Effectively treating mental illness must become a national imperative. No American citizen should be forced to sleep in their own filth or be “warehoused” in jail for being sick. We must treat them with compassion, providing the mentally ill and their families with the tools necessary to be healthy members of society.

This is the story of the mental health system in California and its effects on my mother and her four children. Homeless mentally ill Americans are dying on our streets, and on December 15, 1999, one of them was my mother.