1.The last reading by Frances Farmer (314-325) is a scathing critique of Western State Hospital in Washington state. Farmer was brutalized the entire time she was a patient. I am familiar with her biography and the paranoid schizophrenic Ms. Farmer was arrested quite a few times for disorderly conduct and assaults on civilians and police. What kinds of humane treatments should be implemented for seriously ill patients that are physically combative?
2.Lenore McCall finishes her story talking about four valuable months spent in the hospital and how she learned “lessons in the art of living.” (293) It is interesting that a woman given the horrible insulin treatment (290-292) would emerge from it with such a positive attitude. Anyone have thoughts on this?
Submitted by Bonnie Akkerman I pledge…
1. One of the more striking accounts in this chapter is from Marian King, who was a patient in a private mental hospital in D.C. in the 1920s (Geller and Harris, 265-74). She is committed for a drug problem and appears to be a spoiled brat. Compared to the other ladies whose stories we hear of in this chapter, she is treated with much more dignity. Her description makes it seem like she is in a drug rehab program for the wealthy. The nurses are a bit mean to her, but other than that her descriptions of her experience are not nearly as bad as the others. If indeed she comes from a rich family, how would a drug treatment program differ for a woman of less means in this period?
2. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the story from Frances Farmer, who had been hospitalized in California and Washington state, 1943-1950 (Geller and Harris, 314-25). She opens her account by repeating four times that she “survived” her experience in mental hospitals (314). She goes on to describe the horrid conditions she was subjected to, including being tied up, tortured with ice baths and living in fetid conditions. When she was released, she says she was a broken person. The way she describes her experience was like she had been a POW, which makes me wonder if she suffered from what we call PTSD today. She doesn’t go into much detail about her post-release symptoms, but her statement that she “crawled out mutilated, whimpering and terribly alone” sounds like she suffered from the psychological trauma that former POWs and combat veterans suffer who are diagnosed with PTSD.
Submitted by Chris O'Neill
1. One of the things that really struck me about today's readings was the account by Marian King. Her experience is much different when compared to the other women's. One thing I noticed was how childlike she was. She is, to put it bluntly, a spoiled brat when compared to the others. To her the experience of being confined to a mental institution is almost like going to a country club, which was exactly the impression I got while reading her account. I know none of us are doctors of any kind, but something about her childlike glee and fixation on activities and other patients is more than a little unsettling given what we know about other women of this time. What did everyone else think of this?
2. Going off a my previous question, would you consider Marion King's experience to be an exception to the rule? Or do we truly think she had reason for being in the asylum that may very well be affecting her account?
3. One of the things I noticed is the uncanny ability of these women to simply observe their surroundings. They appear to treat the asylum as if it is an experiment to be watched, hoping to see a particular outcome. Why do you think this is such a common theme found in this (and previous) readings?
Submitted by Lyndsey Clark. I pledge…
1. From this reading it shows that the nurses had a lot more influence on the treatment and release of patients than it would seem on the surface level. At what point do you think this influence ends and where does it begin?
2. Lenore McCall talks about insulin treatments, how was this allowed and continued in the the asylum? I mean we knew the risks of insulin overdoses and over exposure by the 1930s.
-Parker Siebenschuh I pledge…
Question 1: How often did suicide occur at black moor or even other mental institutions in the 30s?
Question 2: What groups were mental health attendants primarily hired from in the 1930s and 1940s?
submitted by Griffin Nameroff
1. Why was conversation during meals considered taboo? Was it because the nurses and staff didn't want to hear patients talk or was it because of another reason?
2. Was there an increase of cancer in patients that drank formaldehyde and if so what did they believe caused the cancer if they didn't think it was the drink?
Submitted by Audrey Schroeder. I pledge…
1. In Margaret Isabel Wilson’s account, why did the nurses insist that the other patient bathe Margaret? What was the purpose of doing this?
2. Why do you think that so many patients lost their appetites? Could this possibly be a way to rebel against the institution and the nurses?
Submitted by Jack Kurz. I pledge…
1. During this period what were the qualifications needed to be hired as an attendant or nurse? Did the potential employee need previous experience and special training?
2. Lenore McCall wrote in her account after she left the institution that she was better after an insulin treatment. Could this be the Placebo Effect at work? How many patients, after their stays in mental institutions, felt as though they had been cured?
Submitted by Jayden Jordan
1. Hydra or Hydro therapy was mentioned in several of the accounts in our reading today. It sounds like a dangerous type of therapy since they are exposed to severe cold for long periods of time. Besides putting the patients in a comatose kind of stupor, were there any real benefits to this type of treatment? Are there records of complications or death resulting from this type of treatment?
2. In Margaret McGarr's account, she was committed after she fainted from heat exhaustion. Was that common? Or was she committed after her religious rebirthing in the hospital? Was it normal for religious people to be committed in the twentieth century?
Submitted by Allison Love (I pledge…)
1) How does the scene that Francis Farmer describes on page 320 represent the state of mental asylums at the time? Do you believe her account of this to be true or fictionalized? How might we use this information that she gives to better understand the treatment and care of patients in mental asylums during the post war period?
2) Many of the women use the word “inmate” or “prisoner” in their testimonies? Why do you think they chose to use these specific words? Do you think they felt that “patient” did not encompass the experience and treatment well enough? Submitted by Mallory Karnei (I pledge…)
1, This question may be controversial to ask, but do you think Virginia, from the (I think) fourth account, was of an entirely sound mind? Schizophrenic-presenting symptoms aside, we hear that doctors repeatedly used shock therapy on her.
2. One thing that stood out to me in the third reading was a quote from a suicidal patient who described her depression as 'existing in a “flat land,” stationary in a changeless plane.' That is an incredibly apt description, in my opinion. Do you think those with mental illnesses––like the people whose writings we have read thus far––are sometimes better able to capture certain realities of life than neurotypical people? It is a vast generalization, but I know we have correlational data claiming that mentally ill people also tend to score higher on IQ/reasoning tests.
Submitted by Theron Gertz (I pledge…)