Visual notes: Patient No. 6, Psychiatric Diagnosis, 1959

As part of my research for a current project into mental health treatment in BC 1940’s to 60’s, I came across vintage psychiatric videos recently.

One particular interviewee has completely captured my heart.

Psychiatric interview series. Patient no. 6 : evaluation for treatment

Publisher: Los Angeles : University of California at Los Angeles, 1959.
Edition/Format:  Film : Film : State or province government publication  Visual material : English
Summary: A spontaneous psychiatric interview of a young lady presenting herself for diagnosis and psychiatric treatment. Camera placement emphasizes the patient and puts view in the interviewer’s chair. Produced for research purposes directed at the viewer’s communications.
Material Type: Government publication, Film, State or province government publication
Document Type: Visual material
OCLC Number: 7476159
Description: 1 film reel (30 min.) : sound, black and white ; 16 mm
Responsibility: produced for the Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, by the Motion Picture Division, Theater Arts Department, University of California, Los Angeles.

Patient No. 6, age 21, is engaging, intelligent, alarmingly modern, and– though I don’t know them and their actual circumstance– I can’t help but feel they are a victim of their times.

The interview takes place in 1959, and the therapist/interviewer is gentle and is good at holding a safe space.  In the interview, Patient No. 6 seems reserved, honest, with a dry sense of humour.  They wear Levis, rolled up t-shirt sleeves, rockabilly hair.  They sit with legs spread, elbows on the arms of the chair and they lean forward.  They have an awesome style.

They have however been in and out of treatment and psychiatric hospitals since age 14, labelled with difficulties that include:

Antisocial and impulsive behaviour, promiscuity, lesbianism, illegitimate children (2 stillborn, 1 adopted, twins adopted, 2 in grandmother’s care), multiple marriages, drug and alcohol addiction, psychosis, runaway, theft, bad cheques, car theft…


Treatments have included hospitalization, detox, medication, shock treatments and psychotherapy.

I created a mind map of dialogue snippets…



4 years later, in 1963, Patient No. 6 and the therapist/interviewer meet again.  And again– though I don’t know them and their actual circumstance– I can’t help but see a person who cannot fully express their individuality and identity.


My heart breaks for them as they reach for the handbag.  May I smoke?


They do express the benefits of talk therapy and they seem to have found an understanding life partner and they are committed to their children.

I have two children that have to be raised.  I want them to be emotionally stable.


I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this beautiful human being– so open and engaging.


I do hope they continued to ride motorcycles and wear Levis. I do hope they had a happy life.

VANCAF reflections Part 2 of 6: @VERWHO and Towerkind on @ConundrumCanada

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Fabulous afternoon at VanCaf Day 1- the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival last Saturday!

I have broken down some highlights from my visit into 6 blog posts:

1. Julian LawrenceDrippy the Newsboy, Conundrum PressBLOG LINK

Update: Julian’s book is a FABULOUS READ and VISUAL FEAST!  Truly the kind of comic you read lying in the grass under a tree in the park, by yourself, cover to cover, with a big smile on your face.  Surprising and dark, quirky and wonderful.  This is obviously work with history, tradition- done with love and humor.

2. Kat Verhoeven, Towerkind, Conundrum Press

3. Emily Cowan, Boundary Comic

4. Jasmine Schuett, Spaceclub Comic

5. Inspector Pancakes

6. Erica Moen, Boumeries and VanCaf takeaways/notes


I met Kat at her booth and was honored to have her draw inside the front cover as she personalized my copy of Towerkind.  [I was very hyper, having just arrived at the festival and totally over-stimulated.  Sorry, Kat!]


[Photo of Kat: SOURCE]

Never judge a book by it’s cover?!  Are you kidding me?!  I judge!  And that is what drew me to Kat’s book in the first place.  The book is tiny and delicious and beautiful.  With an engaging and intriguing cover.  So I had to have it.

I devoured it yesterday and it was a magical and strange journey- frightening, sad, eye-opening, dream-like, a warning.

Kat Verhoeven is a maker of comics by web and by print from a small studio in Toronto. She’s a dabbler in indie game making.

Crafting tales in fantastical colour or stark black and white, hers are stories of loneliness, struggle and inconclusive endings. Somehow there manage to be jokes. Kats ongoing work is the web comic Meat&Bone about eating-disordered Anne, her room-mates, and their cat. You can read her short stories in KUS, Puppyteeth and Wolfen Jump among other anthologies. [SOURCE]

Towerkind is an oblique end-of-the-world story seen through the eyes of a diverse group of children in Toronto’s St James Town, a neighbourhood of densely populated high rise apartments. The kids in this “towerhood” become aware of an impending catastrophe through a number of supernatural abilities. Among other characters, super strong Ty is a self-proclaimed monarch, Mackenzie uses her death magic to meddle, and language savant Mose would prefer to be left alone. Something is revealing itself through cracks and crevices, and through the children in the neighbourhood. Birds are falling from the sky. Originally done as a series of minis that was nominated for an Ignatz Award, Towerkind is a true page-turner. [SOURCE]


Boundary- a new comic by Emily Cowan

I am so excited that Vancouver artist, Emily Cowan, has now launched her extraordinary comic BOUNDARY online!

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BOUNDARY is a long-form comic about being stuck, difficult families, changing friendships and the different kinds of boundaries in our lives.  Mostly though, it’s about adolescent frustration and the unbearable tragedy that is being fifteen.  

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The worst part of being fifteen is the monotony.  That’s what Paige thinks anyway.  Doing the same things, seeing the same faces, hearing the same opinions and going to the same places: day in, day out, forever – it’s driving her crazy!  Add a teacher’s strike that completely stalls the school year, friends who don’t seem to think monotony is a problem, and parents who think EVERYTHING is a problem and Paige feels ready to tear her hair out from the restlessness.  She can’t wait for a few more years to pass so she can finally DO SOMETHING – because after all, once you grow up you can finally make things happen for yourself.


Emily Cowan has a sharp and insightful approach to both life and her art.  I have been lucky enough to watch Emily’s creative process in person.  Each panel is meticulously rendered with a sure hand and the drawings reflect the dry wit and teenage angst that is the heart of the comic perfectly.  The landscape, both exterior and interior, are so welcoming, familiar and accurate.  I love the sparseness of the text, allowing the story to truly speak- authentically.  And the characters have that look- what we call in Sweden: halvslutna ögon- that half mast eyed “sigh” look of the anxious and fatigued- yet ALIVE, living life one beautiful step at a time.

And OH MY GOD- it’s just so GOOOOOOOD!

Check out panels 1 and 2 and make sure to catch new posts online!

Boundary updates on Mondays.



Check out Emily’s new ETSY site: