In his witty and warm history of Worcester State Hospital, founded in 1833 as the first state insane asylum established in this nation, Dr. Enoch Callaway reflects not just on the events in this fortress-like place, but also on how those events parallel advances and failures in the field of psychiatry itself. In addition to patient/psychiatrist vignettes showing treatment techniques of the period--from farm work to early electric shock therapy and insulin treatments that put schizophrenics in a 90-minute coma--Callaway also offers sharp insight into "natural" treatments that showed remarkable results and unexpected recoveries stimulated by tools as simple as a hand mirror.
At times, Worcester may seem brutal, at other times its simplicity seems pure and caring. There are marvelous successes, and times when the facility seems no more than a warehouse for the mentally ill. Callaway argues that this history offers lessons about the treatment--and options for better treatment--of the mentally ill in society today.
Throughout the text, the author weaves in comparisons to books and movies about the mentally ill and the facilities that have housed them. He includes literary works such as Madness in the Streets, Out of the Shadows and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, as well as cinematic classics like The Snake Pit, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and A Beautiful Mind. Each either reflects or directly opposes procedures, patients, treatments, tribulations, or compassion as they existed at Worcester.
Asylums such as Worcester were places that sheltered the mentally ill from harm they might do themselves and others, and from the criminal justice system. With asylums near extinct now, the mentally ill are again being herded into the criminal justice system where they get little to no mental health care. Can the successes and failures of a hospital that closed a half-century ago guide us toward something better? Readers from all walks of life will find this text at once absorbing, disturbing, amusing, painfully serious, and tremendously insightful.
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About the Author
ENOCH CALLAWAY, M.D., is a semi-retired Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. A Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, he continues seeing patients via contract work with companies supplying physicians to fill roles when regular doctors have planned absences. Callaway earned his medical degree at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, and completed training, residencies and a fellowship at Emory University Grady Hospital, Worcester State Hospital, University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, and the Baltimore Psychoanalytic Institute.