The 1950s experienced a rise in mental illness. There were many more people being diagnosed with mental health disorders that previous decades. This was because people were becoming more aware of mental illness and the symptoms that came with it. It is not to say that more people were mentally ill, but more people were labelled as mentally ill. People with mental problems were often left out of society and kept away from the 'normal' people. These outcasts were not looked upon nicely and were often called things like 'nutcases'. Because of this sudden rise in numbers, they needed more ways to treat patients. The 1950s was very important as this is the first time that they had drugs suitable for those in these conditions. This was the first safe drug hat actually helped the mental patients. Apart from these drugs there weren't many ways to deal with the patients. The main treatments were to either lobotomise the patients or use electric shock therapy. A lobotomy is where they turn them into 'vegetables' making them very easy to take care of. Electric shock therapy was very debatable as it had the potential to harm them.
Throughout the novel Holden talks a lot about being depressed and about how depressed he is. J.D. Salinger uses repetition of the word depressed throughout the novel to reinforce that Holden isn't mentally stable. Holden constantly tells us what makes him depressed to give the impression that he gets depressed easily.
''One thing about packing depressed me a little. I had to pack these brand-new ice skates my mother had practically just sent me a couple of days before. That depressed me. I could see my mother going in Spaulding's and asking the salesman a million dopy questions--and here I was getting the axe again. It made me feel pretty sad.''
This quote is used with many descriptive words that all tell us that what Holden is feeling and how sad he can get over the littlest of things.
J.D. Salinger questions this assumption throughout the book. By having Holden repeatedly tell us how depressed he is, we learn that he is in need of help and is more than just a nutcase. The assumption about mental health in the 1950s was that anyone that wasn't mentally stable, was a nutcase who should be left out of society. Even though Holden wasn't completely mad, he was still mentally ill. Holden is living life as a relatively normal citizen would even though he is told, through the use of repetition, is mentally ill.
''I can't stand that stuff. It drives me crazy. It makes me so depressed I go crazy. I hated that goddam Elkton Hills.''
This quote is used to make the point that even Holden says that he can go crazy but he still isn't treated as a nutcase. J.D. Salinger is saying that Holden is mentally ill and is on the verge of going crazy but because he never told people about how depressed he was, he wasn't treated medically. He is saying that if Holden went to a doctor than he would be an outcast but until then, he was normal.