One must not be too romantic about madness…

Feeling burned out today from my bread and butter work, I decided to ignore my entire to-do list this evening, decided to not to catch up on things, to ignore prepping for the rest of the week.

Instead– I got my hands dirty, dove back into my research into mental health treatment 1940’s to 60’s and finished a sketch.

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Electroshock therapy unit

This current exploration is a natural sequel to my ever-evolving project: Molly- a true crime analysis.  

Molly’s younger brother, Joseph, was admitted to the Provincial Mental Hospital, in Essondale BC, on November 25, 1948 at 1:15 PM.  He was institutionalized until his death in 1963.

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DEATH CERTIFICATE CLOSEUP 2

Joseph’s 270+ page file and my historical research into his treatment is being developed into a visual thesis of some sorts.  How it will all look in the end is a mystery.  I remain passionate and mesmerized and grateful for “being chosen” to tell their story.

 

 

One must not be too romantic about madness, or the madhouses in which the insane were confined.  There is, under the manias and grandiosities and fantasies and hallucinations, an immeasurably deep sadness about mental illness, a sadness that is reflected in the often grandiose but melancholy architecture of the old state hospitals. – Oliver Sacks

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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…

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

I created a mind map of dialogue snippets…

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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.

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

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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.

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

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