Tag Archives: Canada

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.

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.

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.

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.

New Book: The Psychopath Machine: A Story of Resistance and Survival

Steve Smith has recently published a book detailing his experiences as a patient at Oak Ridge, the maximum security forensic mental hospital in Penetanguishene, Ontario, in the late-1960s and 70s. Details about Smith’s book, The Psychopath Machine: A Story of Resistance and Survival, and further information on Oak Ridge can be found on his website. (AHP’s previous coverage of Oak Ridge and details on the digital exhibit, Remembering Oak Ridge, can be found here.) The book is described as follows:

When Steve Smith set out to hitchhike from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to Canada’s west coast back in 1968, he was just an eighteen-year-old hippie with an appetite for adventure. But a short way into his journey, a reckless decision to steal a car landed him in police custody. Afraid of getting caught with the two tabs of acid in his pocket, Steve popped them into his mouth. It was one of the worst decisions of his life.

Mistaking his drug trip for a mental breakdown, the authorities placed him in Ontario’s notorious Oak Ridge mental health facility. While there, not only did he find himself shoulder-to-shoulder with people like notorious child killer Peter Woodcock and mass murderers Matt Lamb and Victor Hoffman, he also fell into the hands of someone worse: Dr. Elliot T. Barker.

Over the next eight months, Barker subjected Steve and the other patients to a battery of unorthodox experiments involving LSD, scopolamine, methamphetamines, and other drugs. Steven also experienced numerous other forms of abuse and torture.

Following his release, Steve continued to suffer the aftereffects of his Oak Ridge experience. For several years, he found himself in and out of prison—and back to Oak Ridge—before he was finally able to establish himself as a successful entrepreneur.

Once he began investigating what happened to him during his youth, not even Steve was prepared for what he would discover about Barker, Oak Ridge, and one of the darkest periods in Canada’s treatment of mental health patients. The question remains: Was Oak Ridge and Dr. Barker trying to cure psychopaths or trying to create and direct them?