“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke
“What conditions?” asked Rivera.
“In my building,” responded Wilkins, “there are sixty retarded kids with only one attendant to take care of them. Most are naked and they lie in their own sh*t.”
This exchange was from a telephone call from Dr. Wilkins, who had been fired from Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, New York. He and a coworker were fired for their concern for the welfare of the inhabitants. The person they were talking to was a young television reporter: Geraldo Rivera.
On January 6th, 1972, Wilkins and Rivera met at a diner. Wilkins still had the keys to many buildings, and the plan was set to bring in a camera crew to (illegally) film the inhabitants and their conditions. On January 10 they entered building No. 6.
In honor of May — mental health month — I wanted to highlight the day those videos were taken because it marks the beginning of the mental health movement in America. Specifically, who received mental health services and how those services were delivered changed after those videos aired. But the powerful videos taken by Geraldo Rivera weren’t the first time the conditions at Willowbrook were noticed.
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