The suitcase exhibit...mental hospital suitcases

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Star*, Oct 12, 2007.

  1. Star*

    Star* call 911

    This is really neat if you have the time to "snoop" through all the suitcases and read the stories of each of the people featured.

    I think one of the interesting pictures is captioned under IS IT ANY BETTER TODAY? and the woman holds a sign up that says SELF HELP IS THE KEY.

    Hope you enjoy it. Really an eye opener
  2. jamrobmic

    jamrobmic New Member

    What got to me most, I think, were the statistics quoted in that section (Is It Any Better Today?). That people with psychiatric disabiilities have a 90% unemployment rate made my mouth drop open. Thanks for posting this, it does make you stop and think.
  3. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Wow, I just spent an hour on the site and read everything, even listening to some of the interviews. It was interesting and sad, but also positive in how far we have come in the last century in regards to mental illness.

    Thanks for the intersting read.

  4. Stella Johnson

    Stella Johnson Active Member

    I had tears in my eyes reading all the stories. Most of the people they had stories for didn't even sound like they were mentally ill... if they were it wasn't bad enough to be institutionalized for their entire lives.

    Psychiatry has come a long way but still needs improvement.

    How sad for all those people.

  5. mrscatinthehat

    mrscatinthehat Seussical

    Wow...I can't even put words on what I am thinking now. Kinda scary.

  6. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Thanks for posting this Star. I'll have to comment later.

  7. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Thank you for posting this Star. Like a few other posters, I need time to put my thoughts and emotions into words.
  8. Thanks for posting this Star. It is so touching. It is important to put a real face on all of the people who were institutionalized. All of our large state mental institutions closed here 10 years ago. I had a client who came from one to a community "foster" placement. She was 60. Her mother died when she was young, she came from a rural community and she was mildly retarded. That's it, she had no real mental impairment. Her family did not know what to do with her after her mother died and they commited her to a psychiatric hospital.(Fortunately that would never happen today). She never went to school and was completely and totally institutionalized. She had no clue of how to take care of herself. But, she was a delightful person with a lovely personality. So lovely, that she met a man who in her new community who took quite a liking to her. He was also mildly retarded, but they wanted to set up housekeeping together. They got married and with help from the "foster mother" worked to develop skills to live on their own. How sad that she had to wait until she was 60 to have a "normal" life!
  9. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    This hit too close to home for me.

    I'm so glad this is out there for people to see what the faults were in the mental health system during that time, so that patients don't get lost in the system, or placed in the system who have no need to be there.

    The medical views of mental illness have progressed to the point that as we read some of the "diagnoses" written there we think them to be ridiculous and or harsh. Those who follow us 50 yrs in the future may see the "modern mental health" in the same light. The treatment and dxing of mental illness is still very much in it's infancy. We know more now than they did back then, but we still don't know very much.

    My grandmother, the woman who raised me, found herself trapped in that Old system of mental health. Having the gall to leave her violent, abusive, schizophrenic (I can go on) husband, he decided to teach her a lesson. He conviced a judge she was mentally unstable. Next thing gramma knew she was commited to the state hospital against her will. This was in 1943.

    It took her a year to convince the staff that she was sane. And she had, in her words, "pretend to be depressed so they believed they had cured her" in order to be released. The more she declared her sanity to them, the more they believed her to be mentally ill. That year left her traumatized for life. She was terrified of anyone in the medical community.

    I cared for her at age 16 as she died of cancer. As the cancer racked her body and mind, she "relived" the year she'd spent institutionalized. I'll never forget what she described to me in detail or the horror it filled her with.

    My grandmother kept her certification that she was sane issued by the state upon her discharged until her death some 45 yrs later. We found it just where she'd told me it was, hidden at the bottom of her old steamer trunk.

    On a side note, she left my grandfather anyway and raised their 7 kids on her own by working 2 full time jobs.
  10. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    As a child I was somehow aghast and absorbed by the glimpses of
    mental health treatment in the movies. No family members had
    mh issues so it was just an individual trait that kicked in with
    the post WWII movies. Any discussions that I tried to generate
    were cut short with the pleasant admonition "say a prayer for
    those less fortunate".

    Obviously that was not an adequate response. on the other hand, is there any
    difference between ignoring the past and present state of mental
    health treatment and inequitites and other social injustices
    like the criminal justice system?? or the educational system??

    I've worked as a volunteer Human Rights Advocate for the State
    of Florida. We were able to make a few minor improvements that
    impacted a small percentage of those in need. It's not enough.

    Thanks for sharing the stimulating...albeit DDD
  11. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Wow. Powerful, beautiful, poignant.

    DDD, I too, was introduced to mental health treatment via books and Hollywood, i.e. "Will there ever be a morning," by Francis Farmer, which instigated changes in mental health in the 50s, as well as "The Snake Pit," with-Oliva DeHavilland, which was the first time I'd ever seen an ice bath.
    Both literary treatments were highly sympathetic, but I recall that society's knee-jerk reaction was to open the doors and let everyone out, with-no therapy, no medications, no job skills, no sleeping arrangements, nada.
    Can't say which is worse, just that neither works.

    I have to take issue with-the wording in the Human Rights section, (don't know if this is merely semantics or truly philosophical). They talk about self-definition and self-determination. I can't speak for what happened 100 yrs ago, but from what we're all experiencing on this bb, it's because so many of these people (or many of us) cannot define themselves/ourselves or see themselves clearly, or admit they need help, that they end up being a danger to themselves or at least, unable to hold down a job.

    Our local papers have had a couple of articles recently about how so many of the state's prison inmates are mentally ill, and how they get little or no treatment. I was not one bit surprised.

    What to do about it? It made me want to hire more, and better trained social workers. The SW who work in the system now seem to start out all starry-eyed, and end up being pencil pushers. Many of them are ill-trained for their positions, understanding mental illness or the criminal mind in theory but not in practice. And most have unbelievably huge caseloads.

    There is no one, single answer. But asking questions is always a good place to start.
  12. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    I read this last night but didn't respond because it was pretty emotionally overwhelming. My mother had her first temporary commitment in Oct 1973... she was out by Thanksgiving. She averaged a psychiatric stay about every 18-20 months until 1982. Only one of those hospitalizations occurred after she moved to Canada... it was also the only stay where she received any follow up treatment.
    I shudder to think what would have become of my mother had she been born in 1922 rather than 1942. I'm sure she would have been institutionalized.
    I'll be teaching my Sunday School class about Jesus and the ten lepers, where only one thanks Him for being cured. It's meant to be a lesson about offering thanks, but I'm also planning on talking about the similarities between yesterday's lepers and today's invisible population: those afflicted by mental illness. We no longer throw our mentally ill into isolated institutions to never be seen again. The mentally ill are now in plain sight, but many still don't see them.
    I pray for the time when treatment will be readily available with no stigma attached and delivered with dignity and compassion.
  13. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Terry, I almost made reference to the impact that "The Snake
    Pit" had on me as a child. Without exaggeration I had awful
    nightmares triggered by that film on and off for years. That I
    am claustrophobic magnified the horror. Somehow I didn't think
    anyone here would recall that film. I should have known better
    since our CD family is so diverse. DDD

    PS: Yesterday I received a phone call from a friend who lives
    in California. Her adult daughter (I think in her early 50's)
    has gone back to school for the first time since she graduated
    from high school. She has been hired for a new mental health
    correctional facility where her starting salary will be $50,000
    and the State will pay for her to go to school for more advanced
    education in the field for up to 20 hours of her 40 hour work
    week. I don't know if that means Ca. is desperate or if it means that Ca. is trying to hire trained staff. Either way it
    was encouraging.
  14. skeeter

    skeeter New Member

    I was "exposed" to the state mental health institutionalism in the 1970's. My grandmother was diagnosed with "senility" (I don't now if she would today have been diagnosed with alzheimers). She spent a few months in lock up in a hospital psychiatric ward - where she received several shock treatments and lots and lots of drugs. When she was released from there, she was on such a mixture of medications that no nursing home would take her and we wound up having to probate her and put her in a state institution. We could NOT keep her at home, she became extremely violent when not sedated.
    We visited her, and took grandpa to visit, at least 3 times a week. While in the geriatric area, she was extremely well cared for, in fact, much better than an elderly friend in a nursing "home" at the same time. But she wound up in the hospital section due to pneumonia twice, and many of the people on that ward were truly just sad cases.

    With the work husband and I do with Citizens on Patrol and Court Watch, it's really not "better" today, just different. We have several neighborhood guys that aren't really criminals, they are mentally unstable. But they keep getting caught up in the justice system (of course, often because of self medicating). Even when we advocate for them, it often doesn't help. One probably doesn't have an IQ higher than 70 - but when we insisted that he be evaluated before trial, he was found "competant". And his attorney was happy about that!

    Institutionalism isn't the answer. NOT institutioning, at least as it's been carried out since the 1980s, isn't the answer either. SO many "fall through the cracks" and into the justice system instead.
  15. tinamarie1

    tinamarie1 Member

    Wow. I was crying reading their stories. I hate that many of them just wasted away in those institutions. They could have been functioning citizens in our world today.
    Someone had told me a while back that most states have closed down their institutions, due to lack of funding. It really makes me wonder what percentage of people now are in jail or nursing homes instead.
    I wonder why they buried these people in unmarked graves too? It seems really insensitve.
    Just my random thoughts.
    thanks for posting this Star. it is amazing.