The 1970 book by Dr. William Ryan, Blaming the Victim, coins the title phrase as a way to explain how the system tends to push down those who are already touching the rock bottom of society by assuming that those individuals are there because they want to be.
Chapter 6, titled "The Hydraulics and Economics of Misery: The Society for the Preservation of Disease," deals exclusively with mental illness. Literature prior to the year of the book's publication (1970) dealt with illness and mental conditions among the poor as a constant to be taken for a fact. There was no plan in place to help the people get out of the situation, but, instead, the sociologists would study the condition from within, without looking into taking any steps to interrupt or end the process. In fact, sociologists had much rather suggest the creation of satellite programs that in no way transformed social conditions. Ryan's own words express the contrast to this mentality:
The formula for action becomes extraordinarily simple: change the victim.
If there were meaningful changes taking place in society, the changes would involve the entire infrastructure of society. Meaningful changes would have to incorporate data points, correlations, true and meaningful information. Undertaking this kind of true social change is a colossal job, but it can be done if it is done the right way.