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.
The October 2017 issue of Medical History includes two articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. These articles tackle campaigning for learning disabled people’s civil rights in the 1970s and Susan Isaacs‘ popularization of psychoanalytic concepts through her writing as Ursula Wise. Full details below.
“Select Citizenship and Learning Disabled People: The Mental Health Charity MIND’s 1970s Campaign in Historical Context,” Jonathan Toms. Abstract:
Current policy and practice directed towards people with learning disabilities originates in the deinstitutionalisation processes, civil rights concerns and integrationist philosophies of the 1970s and 1980s. However, historians know little about the specific contexts within which these were mobilised. Although it is rarely acknowledged in the secondary literature, MIND was prominent in campaigning for rights-based services for learning disabled people during this time. This article sets MIND’s campaign within the wider historical context of the organisation’s origins as a main institution of the inter-war mental hygiene movement. The article begins by outlining the mental hygiene movement’s original conceptualisation of ‘mental deficiency’ as the antithesis of the self-sustaining and responsible individuals that it considered the basis of citizenship and mental health. It then traces how this equation became unravelled, in part by the altered conditions under the post-war Welfare State, in part by the mental hygiene movement’s own theorising. The final section describes the reconceptualisation of citizenship that eventually emerged with the collapse of the mental hygiene movement and the emergence of MIND. It shows that representations of MIND’s rights-based campaigning (which have, in any case, focused on mental illness) as individualist, and fundamentally opposed to medicine and psychiatry, are inaccurate. In fact, MIND sought a comprehensive community-based service, integrated with the general health and welfare services and oriented around a reconstruction of learning disabled people’s citizenship rights.
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are a number of new articles that range from the difficulty in classifying postpartum depression, the mental hygiene in socialist Mexico, and even a digital analysis of the Psychological Review. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“A Tricky Object to Classify: Evidence, Postpartum Depression and the DSM-IV,” by Rebecca Godderis. The abstract reads:
The concept of evidence has become central in Western healthcare systems; however, few investigations have studied how the shift toward specific definitions of evidence actually occurred in practice. This paper examines a historical case in psychiatry where the debate about how to define evidence was of central importance to nosological decision making. During the fourth revision of the Diagnostic andStatistical Manual of Mental Disorders a controversial decision was made to exclude postpartum depression (PPD) as a distinct disorder from the manual. On the basis of archival and interview data, I argue that the fundamental issues driving this decision were related to questions about what constituted suitable hierarchies of evidence and appropriate definitions of evidence. Further, although potentially buttressed by the evidence-based medicine movement, this shift toward a reliance on particular kinds of empirical evidence occurred when the dominant paradigm in American psychiatry changed from a psychodynamic approach to a research-based medical model.
The March 2013 issue of the History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are a number of articles ranging from morbidity and mortality caused from melancholia, to a revisiting of the mental hygiene movement, and even to William James’ psychical research. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The morbidity and mortality linked to melancholia: two cohorts compared, 1875–1924 and 1995–2005,” by Margaret Harris, Fiona Farquhar, David Healy, Joanna C Le Noury, Stefanie C Linden, J Andrew Hughes, and Anthony P Roberts. The abstract reads:
For over a century, melancholia has been linked to increased rates of morbidity and mortality. Data from two epidemiologically complete cohorts of patients presenting to mental health services in North Wales (1874–1924 and 1995–2005) have been used to look at links between diagnoses of melancholia in the first period and severe hospitalized depressive disorders today and other illnesses, and to calculate mortality rates. This is a study of the hospitalized illness rather than the natural illness, and the relationship between illness and hospitalization remains poorly understood. These data confirm that melancholia is associated with a substantial increase in the standardized mortality rate both formerly and today, stemming from a higher rate of deaths from tuberculosis in the historical sample and from suicide in the contemporary sample. The data do not link melancholia to cancer or cardiac disease. The comparison between outcomes for melancholia historically and severe mood disorder today argue favourably for the effectiveness of asylum care.
Interested in the history of stress? If so, you will want to check out a just released special issue on the topic. The December 2012 issue of History of the Human Sciences is guest edited by Rhodri Hayward and dedicated to the subject of “Inventing the Psychosocial: Stress and Social Psychiatry.” Articles in this issue examine a diverse array of subjects including: the work of Hans Selye, somatic disorders during World War Two, the development of psychosocial medicine in Britain, the rat and stress, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The invention of the psychosocial: An introduction,” by Rhodri Hayward. The abstract reads,
Although the compound adjective ‘psychosocial’ was first used by academic psychologists in the 1890s, it was only in the interwar period that psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers began to develop detailed models of the psychosocial domain. These models marked a significant departure from earlier ideas of the relationship between society and human nature. Whereas Freudians and Darwinians had described an antagonistic relationship between biological instincts and social forces, interwar authors insisted that individual personality was made possible through collective organization. This argument was advanced by dissenting psychoanalysts such as Ian Suttie and Karen Horney; biologists including Julian Huxley and Hans Selye; philosophers (e.g. Olaf Stapledon), anthropologists (e.g. Margaret Mead) and physicians (e.g John Ryle and James Halliday).
This introduction and the essays that follow sketch out the emergence of the psycho-social by examining the methods, tools and concepts through which it was articulated. New statistical technologies and physiological theories allowed individual pathology to be read as an index of broader social problems and placed medical expertise at the centre of new political programmes. In these arguments the intangible structure of social relationships was made visible and provided a template for the development of healthy and effective forms of social organization. By examining the range of techniques deployed in the construction of the psychosocial (from surveys of civilian neurosis, techniques of family observation through to animal models of psychotic breakdown) a critical genealogy of the biopolitical basis of modern society is developed.
“The pursuit of happiness: The social and scientific origins of Hans Selye’s natural philosophy of life,” by Mark Jackson. The abstract reads,
The most recent issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences contains two articles that will be of interest to historians of psychology.
“’A Fine New Child’: The Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic and Harlem’s African American Communities, 1946–1958″ by Dennis Doyle and “Physiological Optics, Cognition and Emotion: A Novel Look at the Early Work of Wilhelm Wundt” by Claudia Wassmann. Abstracts for both are below.
“’A Fine New Child’: The Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic and Harlem’s African American Communities, 1946–1958″ by Dennis Doyle
In 1946, the Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic, a small outpatient facility run by volunteers, opened in Central Harlem. Lafargue lasted for almost thirteen years, providing the underserved black Harlemites with what might be later termed community mental health care. This article explores what the clinic meant to the African Americans who created, supported, and made use of its community-based services. While white humanitarianism often played a large role in creating such institutions, this clinic would not have existed without the help and support of both Harlem’s black left and the increasingly activist African American church of the “long civil rights era.” Not only did St. Philip’s Church provide a physical home for the clinic, it also helped to integrate it into black Harlem, creating a patient community. Continue reading Early Wundt & Harlem Mental Health in JHMAS→