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Sick: A Documentary

Just watched this documentary about mental health institutionalization of youth.

Produced through the social justice program at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Printed in 2012.

Histories of mental health care are usually characterized as progress from unkind prison-like warehousing of the mad from the 1700’s to modern educated, caring, and efficient treatment.

Yet, that progress was punctuated with critical views that indicate that institutional needs frequently over-ride humane treatment, and this documentary is part of the narrative.


“Sick” is a comparison of the modern experience by teenagers to the idea of “the complete institution” as developed by sociologist Erving Goffman in his 1961 collection of essays titled “Asylums”.

The first historical background is somewhat slow. The introduction to Goffman’s view of “the complete institution” are introduced approximately 8 minutes in, the rest of the movie is living history of men who as adolescents were involuntary committed to mental health care over the previous 15 years.

This is a documentary about the psychological health institutionalization of childhood. It was completed as part of the social justice program at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
It investigates mental health institutions in the context of Irving Goffman’s ‘total institution’ and looks at parallels between the institutionalization of youth in mental hospitals and the prison system.
1 part historical, 1 part sociological, 1-part private – former patients share their experiences. Based on personal experience, we requested as our assumption – if you’re sending someone somewhere to find fit, why would you send them into a prison? In this film, we provide a critical look in the institutionalization of minors

One comment

  1. Do you haave any video of that? I’d like to find out more details.

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