Tag Archives: asylum

Keys To Our Past Film Series: Interview with Laura Ball

 

As previewed in a post from September, Waypoint  Centre for Mental Health Care and Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre have collaborated on a series of videos about the history of mental health care in Canada called Keys to Our Past. The films premiered earlier this month at the Humber Lakeshore Campus, site of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) as a Canada 150 grant, the project is composed of six pieces that are each roughly ten minutes long on a range of topics relevant to the evolution of care throughout the history of our nation, from its early foundations to its recent iterations: institutional buildings, moral treatment, somatic therapy, drug therapy, the not criminally responsible designation, and language and stigma.

Here’s the link to the Waypoint page for the videos for your viewing pleasure! The site also includes other resources and local media coverage.  Here’s a direct link to the Youtube playlist

AHP conducted an interview with one of the series producers, Laura C. Ball, who is Waypoint’s Knowledge Translation & Implementation Coordinator. We discussed the making of the series, as well as its socio-political relevance to Canadian culture today. We’d like to thank Laura for taking the time to chat with us about the project! As historians of the field and as teachers, we appreciate the sensitivity and sophistication of its historiographic narratives, and we know our readership will as well.

Shayna Fox Lee (SFL): How did the idea for the project develop? Also, give us some insight into the significance of including works such as Keys To Our Past in the Canada 150 activities.

Laura Ball (LB): The idea for Keys to our Past initially came from a desire to extend the work that Jennifer Bazar had done during her post-doctoral fellowship position at Waypoint in Penetanguishene. She had created a wonderful resource – Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive & Exhibit – and we were hoping to secure funding through SSHRC’s Canada 150 grants to expand on her vision. We were thrilled to receive the Canada 150 grant. It was a tangible recognition that mental health and the mental health care system is integral to the foundation and fabric of our country.

However, the real vision for the series came after we got the funding, and hired 2 students to work on the project: Rachel Gerow (MA student in Counselling Psychology, Yorkville University), and Gary Bold (BA student in Psychology, York University). The four of us got together and started to develop a plan. It was very student driven: we chose topics based on what they found interesting, and what they wanted to know more about.

SFL: Tell us about John Leclair! He did such a great job conveying the often very nuanced content in a manner that is straightforward but also sociable, resulting in an eminently accessible series!

LB:  We literally could not have done this project in the way that we did without John’s participation. To most people at Waypoint, he is known as a Recreation Therapist in the Provincial Forensic (max secure) programs – and one who whole-heartedly believes in his clients and has hope for their future. What many don’t know is that he is also a talented stage and film actor.

He has been working with the Huronia Players in Midland, ON for some time now. Once we had established our vision for the series, it had become clear that we needed an actor to be the face and voice of the series – it couldn’t be done by an amateur. Holly Archer – Waypoint’s Senior Development Officer, and supporter of this project – is also a member of the Huronia Players. She arranged the meet for us, and right away we knew he was who we were looking for. He was not only a skilled actor, but also passionate about his patients, and an avid consumer of historical writings (he had read almost every page of the Remembering Oak Ridge site!). He immediately grasped the kind of persona we were looking for: someone who was likeable, funny, persuasive, and speaks with an air of authority – kind of a hybrid between Mr. Rogers, Bill Nye, and Rick Mercer!

John worked with us to develop the scripts to ensure that they were accessible, understandable, and sound like something he would actually say. He also enlisted the help of two other Huronia Players members: Ron Payne, who joined us on the film days to provide his Director expertise, and Wendy Roper, who provided John’s makeup. Despite all our preparation, though, the scripts were still being polished right up until the moment they were performed on film. John is actually reading off of a teleprompter – and some of the final cuts were the first time he had seen some of the material in the scripts! That speaks volumes about John’s skill and commitment to the project. Many working journalists can’t even read off a teleprompter, and John made it look effortless.

SFL: The ‘study’ in which the films take place contains a wonderfully rich and diverse collection of artifacts that illustrate the institutional history, and also the history of mental health care and treatment more broadly. What fun the production of the set must have been! Any favourite pieces with share-worthy stories?

LB: The set was an absolute joy to create (though admittedly, it took a lot of work!). The final set featured contributions from the Waypoint History Walk collection, the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre collection, items on loan from the Mental Health Museum, as well as pieces donated from private collections from Jenn Bazar, Kate Harper, Monica Murphy, and myself (Laura Ball). All of the items on display have an interesting history.

However, I think my favourite has to be two items that appear separately on the set, but are presented as one display in the Waypoint History Walk: the section of the front gate from the former Oak Ridge building, and the Folger Adams key that was used to open it. For anyone who has visited or worked at Oak Ridge, those are usually cited as one of their strongest visual and auditory memories. The gate was profoundly heavy and large – even that small section is difficult to lift! And the key is similarly large and imposing. Together, they were a strong symbol of the security focus of the maximum security setting that was Oak Ridge. It was the gateway in and out of the facility. In recognition of that, the Folger Adams key is the symbol used for both the Remembering Oak Ridge site, and the Keys to our Past series.

SFL: All 6 films have great educational value, each with potential uses in a wide variety of traditional classroom and extracurricular teaching contexts–are there any plans for promotion of their usage in universities or elsewhere?

LB: Absolutely! Though we hope that the general public will enjoy these films, we recognize that the long-term value of the videos will likely be in educational settings. We are hoping to promote these videos as tools to use in the classroom for instructors of classes such as: History of Psychology, History of Psychiatry, Law and Psychology, and Abnormal Psychology. However, these videos touch on such diverse topics, that they will probably be more broadly applicable than we can foresee. For example, the Moral Treatment video discusses events relevant to the development of the disciplines of Occupational and Recreation Therapy.

SFL: Likewise, the piece on Language and Stigma holds considerable emancipatory potential for assisting Canada’s public conversations about how social realities affect psychological experiences. How do you recommend institutions and organizations best employ that film as a resource?

LB: At Waypoint, we are in discussions about how best to use it. So far, we’ve discussed the possibilities of using it as part of new hire and student orientations, and presentations to the public. We are currently planning to show it as part of a Rotary Club presentation in Midland, ON and other outreach events. We think that this video is foundational – even though it is presented last in the YouTube playlist, it is, in fact, the piece that drives why we should understand all of the other topics. We’re hoping that some of our other stakeholders and partners may see the value in these videos as well.

SFL: And finally, but not least, the piece on NCR advocates powerful messages about 2014’s Bill C-14. I consider it to be an invaluable historiographic record for this political moment, providing a sophisticated synopsis of how legal language changes and cycles, and the consequences of those developments. Do you envision ways that it could be used to influence policy moving forward? 

LB: This section of the video was actually a bit of a difficult one for us. As the videos were funded through the Canada 150 grant, we felt a bit awkward about presenting a video that is so blatantly critical of federal law. However, after discussions with some of our stakeholders, we realized that it was absolutely necessary. The evidence simply doesn’t support Bill C-14, and every group who was part of the affected systems spoke out against the change. We hope that it can not only be a lesson for students about how policy is enacted (that sometimes it is developed based on emotional evidence rather than empirical evidence), but also to begin a conversation. With the current political push for “evidence-based” policy, we hope that the messages in this video will start a discussion about an area where evidence-based policy is needed.

 

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Managing Madness: Weyburn Mental Hospital and the Transformation of Psychiatric Care in Canada

Managing Madness: Weyburn Mental Hospital and the Transformation of Psychiatric Care in Canada, by Erika Dyck and Alex Deighton, is now available from the University of Manitoba Press. The book is described on the publisher’s website as follows:

The Saskatchewan Mental Hospital at Weyburn has played a significant role in the history of psychiatric services, mental health research, and community care in Canada. Its history provides a window to the changing nature of mental health services over the twentieth century.

Built in 1921, the Saskatchewan Mental Hospital was billed as the last asylum in North America and the largest facility of its kind in the British Commonwealth. A decade later, the Canadian Committee for Mental Hygiene cited it as one of the worst institutions in the country, largely due to extreme overcrowding. In the 1950s, the Saskatchewan Mental Hospital again attracted international attention for engaging in controversial therapeutic interventions, including treatments using LSD.

In the 1960s, sweeping health care reforms took hold in the province and mental health institutions underwent dramatic changes as they began moving patients into communities. As the patient and staff population shrank, the once palatial building fell into disrepair, the asylum’s expansive farmland fell out of cultivation, and mental health services folded into a complicated web of social and correctional services.

Managing Madness examines the Weyburn mental hospital, the people it housed, struggled to understand, help, or even tried to change, and the ever-shifting understanding of mental health.

Full details here.

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Keys to Our Past: Mental Health Film Series Premiere Oct. 4th!

AHP readers in the Toronto area will be interested in the upcoming premiere of a new film series on the history of mental health care in Canada. Keys to Our Past premieres the evening of Wednesday, October 4th at Humber College, the site of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. RSVP for the free event here and watch the series trailer above. Full details below.

Keys to Our Past: Mental Health Film Series Premiere
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
7-9pm (doors at 6:30pm)

Join us on the grounds of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital for the premiere of KEYS TO OUR PAST, an original film series about the history of mental health care in Canada created by the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in partnership with the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre. Hear about the creation of the asylum system, changes in treatments over time, and the continuing challenge of stigma directly from the writers, producers, and directors of this unique project.

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Historical Timeline of Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

A timeline detailing the history of what is now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada is now available to explore online. First opened in 1850, the mental health centre has been known variously throughout its 167 year history as the Provincial Lunatic Asylum,  Toronto Lunatic Asylum, “999 Queen Street”, and the Queen Street Mental Health Centre. Explore the timeline in full here.

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““The Weight of Perhaps Ten or a Dozen Human Lives”: Suicide, Accountability, and the Life-Saving Technologies of the Asylum”

A recent article in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine may be of interest to AHP readers. Exploring the happenings at the New York State Lunatic Asylum, Kathleen Brain describes how the antebellum asylum asserted ownership over the prevention of suicide and the ramifications of this claim. Full details below.

““The Weight of Perhaps Ten or a Dozen Human Lives”: Suicide, Accountability, and the Life-Saving Technologies of the Asylum,” by Kathleen M. Brian. The abstract reads,

By accounting for the law’s productive capacity to structure asylum physicians’ encounters with suicide, this essay argues that the antebellum asylum was a technology for the preservation of life. The essay first shows how suicide’s history as a crime encouraged popular attributions of suicide to insanity. What began as a tactic to protect survivors, however, ended by bolstering the professional claims of asylum medicine. Initially it appeared there was much to gain from claiming suicide as their own, but dominion over prevention in fact rendered asylum physicians and their staffs vulnerable in unanticipated ways: for while agents of suicide were effectively evacuated of legal responsibility, a variety of laws made physicians more accountable than ever. Focusing on medical superintendent Amariah Brigham and his staff at the New York State Lunatic Asylum shows how the anxiety of assuming guardianship over the suicidal created networks of accountability that profoundly affected daily life.

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Online Digital Project: After the Asylum/Après l’asile

A new national project, After the Asylum/Après l’asile,  documenting the shift from institutional care to community mental health in Canada has recently launched. As historians Megan Davies and Erika Dyck discuss in a recent blog post,

The shift from institutional to community mental health was among the most significant social changes of the late 20th century. Between 1965 and 1980 nearly 50,000 beds were closed in residential psychiatric facilities across Canada. De-institutionalization profoundly changed the lives of former patients and those who worked with them, impacting the larger economy, public health and social planning, and challenging ideas of individual rights and capabilities.

The first national project of its kind, After the Asylum/Après l’asile presents this complex and often difficult history, making clear its continuing relevance. We examine early mental health initiatives, we consider how therapeutic and professional contours of care were reshaped, and we explore new consumer / user networks and cultures that emerged. Many of the exhibits speak to the continuing social and economic marginalization of people deemed mentally ill, whose lives are often poignant testaments to the limits of a reconstituted mental health system.

The project can be explored in full here.

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Nov 19th Wellcome Library History of Psychiatry Beyond the Asylum Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

On November 19th Alice White,  Wikimedian in Residence at the Wellcome Library, is running a Wikepedia edit-a-thon to coincide with the Wellcome Collection‘s ongoing exhibit Bedlam: The Asylum and Beyond.  The event is free and open to the public. It will

…begin with a morning of talks on various aspects of the history of psychiatry and mental health, to provide some inspiration for the editing to come! After a break for lunch, we’ll dive into some wiki-training from Alice White, Wikimedian in Residence at the Wellcome Library, which will cover everything from to creating an account and to how to edit. After learning your way around and getting comfortable with editing, you will have the opportunity to develop articles on the history of psychiatry: there are lots of pages on institutions, groups and individuals (particularly women) that are missing or very brief, so there’s lots of scope for making some exciting improvements!

Complete beginners are welcome to attend, and no previous experience is necessary, though a little digital skill is needed – but if you can use Microsoft Word, you can edit Wikipedia. Participants should bring a laptop or tablet (or request one in advance when you sign up) – editing is much easier with a keyboard. If you’ve spotted an article that needs improving, bring along your queries and we’ll see what we can do to help!

Individuals are also welcome to join the event remotely. Full details are available here.

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“Bedlam: The Asylum & Beyond” at the Wellcome Collection

Now on at the Wellcome Collection in London is an exhibit on “Bedlam: The Asylum & Beyond.” The exhibit, which runs until January 15th 2017, is described on their website as follows:

Follow the rise and fall of the mental asylum and explore how it has shaped the complex landscape of mental health today. Reimagine the institution, informed by the experiences of the patients, doctors, artists and reformers who inhabited the asylum or created alternatives to it.

Today asylums have largely been consigned to history but mental illness is more prevalent than ever, as our culture teems with therapeutic possibilities: from prescription medications and clinical treatment to complementary medicines, online support, and spiritual and creative practices. Against this background, the exhibition interrogates the original ideal that the asylum represented – a place of refuge, sanctuary and care – and asks whether and how it could be reclaimed.

Taking Bethlem Royal Hospital as a starting point, ‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ juxtaposes historical material and medical records with individual testimonies and works by artists such as David Beales, Richard Dadd, Dora García, Eva Kotátková, Madlove: A Designer Asylum, Shana Moulton, Erica Scourti, Javier Téllez and Adolf Wölfli, whose works reflect or reimagine the institution, as both a physical and a virtual space.

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Special Issue: “Tales from the Asylum. Patient Narratives and the (De)construction of Psychiatry”

The January 2016 issue of Medical History is a special issue dedicated to “Tales from the Asylum. Patient Narratives and the (De)construction of Psychiatry.” The issue marks the 30th anniversary of Roy Porter’s seminal article, “The Patient’s View: Doing Medical History from Below. A full list of article titles, authors, and abstracts follows below.

Editorial: “The Patient’s Turn Roy Porter and Psychiatry’s Tales, Thirty Years on,” by Alexandra Bacopoulos-Viau and Aude Fauvel. No abstract.

“Animal Magnetism, Psychiatry and Subjective Experience in Nineteenth-Century Germany: Friedrich Krauß and his Nothschrei,” by Burkhart Brückner. The abstract reads,

Friedrich Krauß (1791–1868) is the author of Nothschrei eines Magnetisch-Vergifteten [Cry of Distress by a Victim of Magnetic Poisoning] (1852), which has been considered one of the most comprehensive self-narratives of madness published in the German language. In this 1018-page work Krauß documents his acute fears of ‘mesmerist’ influence and persecution, his detainment in an Antwerp asylum and his encounter with various illustrious physicians across Europe. Though in many ways comparable to other prominent nineteenth-century first-person accounts (eg. John Thomas Perceval’s 1838 Narrative of the Treatment Experienced by a Gentleman or Daniel Paul Schreber’s 1903 Memoirs of my Nervous Illness), Krauß’s story has received comparatively little scholarly attention. This is especially the case in the English-speaking world. In this article I reconstruct Krauß’s biography by emphasising his relationship with physicians and his under-explored stay at the asylum. I then investigate the ways in which Krauß appropriated nascent theories about ‘animal magnetism’ to cope with his disturbing experiences. Finally, I address Krauß’s recently discovered calligraphic oeuvre, which bears traces of his typical fears all the while showcasing his artistic skills. By moving away from the predominantly clinical perspective that has characterised earlier studies, this article reveals how Friedrich Krauß sought to make sense of his experience by selectively appropriating both orthodox and non-orthodox forms of medical knowledge. In so doing, it highlights the mutual interaction of discourses ‘from above’ and ‘from below’ as well as the influence of broader cultural forces on conceptions of self and illness during that seminal period.

“‘No “Sane” Person Would Have Any Idea’: Patients’ Involvement in Late Nineteenth-century British Asylum Psychiatry,” by Sarah Chaney. The abstract reads, Continue reading Special Issue: “Tales from the Asylum. Patient Narratives and the (De)construction of Psychiatry”

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Remembering Oak Ridge: A Digital Exhibit

Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene (circa 2000s). Aerial photograph of Oak Ridge. In J. L. Bazar (Ed.), Remembering Oak Ridge digital archive and exhibit
Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene (circa 2000s). Aerial photograph of Oak Ridge. In J. L. Bazar (Ed.), Remembering Oak Ridge digital archive and exhibit

AHP‘s very own contributor Jennifer Bazar  has curated a fascinating online historical archive and exhibit on the Oak Ridge forensic mental health division of the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishene, Ontario. Find the exhibit here.

Established in 1933 and closed last year (2014), the Oak Ridge division at Waypoint was Ontario’s only maximum security forensic hospital served by both the provincial criminal justice and mental health systems. The exhibit opens the locked doors of its eighty one year history “to dispel the misconceptions and stereotypes that surround forensic mental health care centres and their clients,” and compellingly tells its unique story by sharing artefacts, photographs, and archival documents “to demonstrate how treatment practices, security restrictions, and individual experiences both changed and remained consistent” throughout the institute’s existence. Exhibit sections include: Origins, Building, Legislation, Treatment, Daily Life, Patients, Staff, Research, and Community.

You can also browse through the exhibit content here (400+ items total: photos, docs, artefacts, audio, video), and please look forward to further additions to the collection over the next year including “personal experiences from patient case records, interviews, and oral histories with former staff members of the Oak Ridge division.”

 

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