Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Statement by the President Upon Signing the Mental Health Amendments of 1967.

June 26, 1967

MENTAL ILLNESS is not something which strikes some other person in some other family. It strikes one American in ten.

--It fills nearly half our Nation's hospital beds.

--It costs States and communities more than $3 billion each year--often for inadequate care.

--It costs the Nation $20 billion each year in lost wages and taxes.

And the cost in anguish and sorrow is far beyond counting.

Three and a half years ago our country decided to face, boldly and frankly, this major health problem--to face it with a major health program: Community Mental Health Centers.

All of us can remember when the problem of mental illness was veiled in ignorance and shame and superstition. Not long ago, a sick or deeply troubled person was hidden away--treated more as a prisoner than as a patient; locked in a faraway place whose very name struck fear, the insane asylum.

Now we are changing all that: taking down the bars of fear; letting in the air of knowledge; emphasizing, for the first time, modern local services; outpatient care; prevention as well as cure.

In 1963 we invested in a totally new idea: the conviction that community centers could bring treatment of the mentally ill out of the darkness; out of isolation--into places where the people live.

In 1965 Congress provided funds to train workers for the centers; to hire mental health specialists.

By signing this bill we extend those great programs. In addition, we give America's mental health centers new power to overcome some old problems: to work with disturbed children, to cure alcoholics and drug addicts, to counsel troubled families and others deeply in need of help.

We have brought down the number of patients confined to mental hospitals--from 570,000 in 1955 to 425,000 in 1966. That is real progress.

But there are still many items of unfinished business, many problems yet to be solved:

--The total number of patients in mental hospitals is down. But the number of young patients is going up.

--Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in our society. But among college students, it is the third leading cause.

--Dependence upon drugs is a growing problem. And more than half the Nation's narcotics addicts are under 30.

I see this bill as one way to prevent such tragedies.

I see this bill not as an isolated effort, but as part of our total health strategy.

I see it as a sign that marks the distance we have come away from superstition, toward enlightenment.

And I see it as a pledge: a pledge that the things we have begun--in health, in education, in meeting human needs--we do not intend to slow down.

If there are any who think they see us slowing down; if there are any who believe that the cutting edge of progress has gone dull in America--let them examine this record.

In February of this year Federal funds had helped 173 mental health centers in 44 States where 28 1/2 million people live,

By June 30, we expect to reach 286 centers in areas where 47 million Americans live.

We are taking another step toward a better life for every family. We renew our pledge to the poor, to the sick, to every citizen. We will meet our commitments abroad. But nothing will keep us from meeting them at home.

Note: As enacted, the bill (H.R. 6431) is Public Law 90-31 (81 Stat. 79).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing the Mental Health Amendments of 1967. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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