Free at Last

Misunderstood for 31 years

When David Tom, a frail young Chinese immigrant in his early 20s, was first admitted to an Illinois mental institution in 1952, all he was able to say in English was "Me no crazy. This nuthouse."

No one listened. Worse, he was never examined by anyone who could speak Chinese. Nearly three decades went by before anyone even tried to understand. In 1978, a social worker at a mental hospital in Manteno, Ill., took Tom to a Chinese restaurant, where he had a conversation in Cantonese dialect with the cook. There was nothing wrong with Tom, the cook told...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!