Monday, 26 January 2015

Madness Monday - the lives they left behind

THE LIVES THEY LEFT BEHIND is a book about the suitcases found at the Willard Psychiatric Hospital, New York after it closed in 1995. 

More than four hundred abandoned suitcases filled with patients’ belongings were found when Willard Psychiatric Hospital, New York closed in 1995 after 125 years of operation. They are skillfully examined in this book and compared to the written record to create a moving—and devastating—group portrait of twentieth-century American psychiatric care.

My friend and colleague Judi Chamberlin reviewed the book and said:
"Darby Penney and Peter Stasny, in reconstructing the lives of ten ordinary people who spent years at Willard State Hospital, have performed an important service, reclaiming these individuals from the nameless, faceless fate of being only "mental patients". By going behind the label to find both the beauty and the horror of their lives, Penney & Stasny have reclaimed the humanity, not only of these individuals, but of everyone who shared their fate - having their individuality stripped away by supposedly medical labels that became life sentences to the grimness of institutional life. Now, with their stories revealed, they can call out to us from beyond their graves, to confront us with their humanity and their tragedy."  - Judi Chamberlin author of On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System.

Sadly Judi has passed away but her memory and her work of advocacy in the field of mental health lives on - you are missed Judi.
Lithograph of newly built Willard Asylum c 1870
You can go to the Suitcase Project here and view the photos on a Pinterest site here. They are well worth viewing. By the way, these horrific conditions were the same in Australia. Wolston Park Hospital did a similar exhibition, Remembering Goodna Mental Hospital, at the Brisbane City Hall in around in late 2007 early 2008. It was also  a powerful reminder of how people with mental illness were treated in the past and still are in many ways.

1 comment:

  1. "The lives they left behind" sounds like a fascinating read.I've added it to my "to read" list.