Week 14 Digital Resource Blog Post

This clip is from an episode of House about a woman with schizophrenia. The scene here, like much of the episode, focuses on her son and the struggles that he had caring for his mother with the limited support available. This reminded me, although the situations are reversed, of Pete Earley’s struggles in caring for his son through his mental illness.

Week 12 Digital Resource Post

This instagram reel was made by a woman who makes a lot of “day in the life” content about being a stay at home mom home schooling her two young sons. In her posts, she is often dressed very beautifully and her home and life overall seem very happy and serene. Naturally, the comments on her posts are often filled with people alleging that she must be on some type of psychiatric medication in order to maintain this “perfect” life maintaining her home and caring for her kids. She at times plays into this, as was the case in this video where she recounts some things she does to practice self care, which includes a “post lobotomy appointment.” Both her post as well as the reaction to her regular content reference the association between white, middle class housewives and psychiatric care such as medications and lobotomies, with the implication that the traditional expected role for women is not something that can be achieved happily without some sort of intervention.

Mental Health Related Show Review: House, MD season 6 premier

Season six of House, MD began with two episodes recounting House’s stay at the Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital after his addiction to Vicodin worsened and he began hallucinating and acting increasingly erratic. They began with House being held in a small hospital room as he went through withdrawals; this included him being restrained, showing that despite non-restraint being a goal for much of the history of mental health in America, it still remains an expected part of care today.

House was restrained to his bed while he quit taking Vicodin. This room was much smaller and emptier than the one he would be in once he moved to the permanent ward.

After this he was ready to be released; however, despite him having voluntarily committed himself, his doctor – Dr. Nolan – was able to prevent him from leaving by refusing to write a letter allowing him to reinstate his medical license. House compared this to slavery which, while an intentionally inflammatory remark, reminded me immediately of the accounts of people who were involuntarily committed that compared that to slavery. While not exactly the same, it was similar and House found the same language to describe it.

House wants to leave Mayfield, but Nolan feels that his issue goes beyond simply quitting taking Vicodin and finds a way to keep him there, despite House comparing it to slavery and clearly being unhappy with the idea.

After he begrudgingly agreed to stay, House was transferred to be with other long term patients, where he decided to be disruptive until Nolan was forced to let him go. A theme throughout both the episodes is the constant conflict between House and the doctors. Echoing the longstanding significance of the doctor-patient relationship, Nolan and the other doctors repeatedly expressed that House could not truly improve until he accepted that he needed treatment and cooperated with them.

Another concept brought up repeatedly was the question of who got to decide what was normal. This was centered around a patient, Steven, who believed he was a superhero; that belief was shot down by another doctor who antagonized Steven, trying to prove to him that he was wrong, which led to Steven becoming extremely depressed. This angered House, who confronted the doctor about harassing people for simply being “a little different.” The doctor countered this by saying  Steven wasn’t different, but delusional. House later brought Steven to a fair where he could “fly” in order to cheer him up, which worked, but resulted in Steven being injured when he tried to “fly” again. House touched somewhat on the issue of social control in the way he reacted to how Steven was treated, arguing that he did not have any real issues before he was put on medication and forced to change how he thought about himself. For House, at least initially, he believed that it was better for Steven to be delusional but happy than depressed and the doctors were more so with making him “normal” than improving Steven’s life. He changed this belief after Steven was injured.

3:22-4:17 House disagrees with a doctor about another patient’s treatment, feeling that more harm is being done by trying to make the patient “normal.”

It stood out to me was that Mayfield was established in 1876 and throughout the episodes I was unable to determine if it was in its original location. The hospital appeared older and had many ornate details that I don’t associate with more modern hospitals, but none of the structural issues that would be expected from an older building were touched upon.

The exterior of the hospital
Shows the interior of the hospital and some of the ornate detailing that stood out to me

Digital Resource Blog Post Week 11

Linked HERE is an Instagram Reel that shows someone repeatedly opening a door and shining a flashlight around a room. It is captioned “POV you’re trying to sleep but you’re at the mental hospital” and “every fifteen minutes and they won’t close the door!” This immediately reminded me of Nellie Bly’s account and the accounts of other women of their time being institutionalized and the critiques they made that the environment of the asylum was not conducive to healing.

Digital Project

For my digital project, I wanted to examine what happened to historic asylums following deinstitutionalization when mental health care overall became less focused on the environment of the psychiatric hospital and there was a reduced need for them. I have always found abandoned buildings interesting and watched a lot of videos of people exploring psychiatric hospitals specifically growing up, so I was additionally curious about the different types of reactions that people might have to historic asylums and if there were any identifiable trends in the types of reactions. In trying to answer these questions, I chose five examples of specific hospitals to use as case studies and created a digital essay where each of these are discussed individually and in comparison with one another. That is linked HERE.

Week Ten Resource Blog Post

I was curious while reading The Protest Psychosis about what Ionia looked like, and when I tried to find out, I found this collection of images gathered as part of a project to collect oral histories of various psychiatric hospitals in Michigan. Most were of the buildings on campus, but there were also quite a few of what I think was on-sight farms (unfortunately not all of the images are captioned so it is hard to tell), tools used for therapy, and groups of whom I assumed to be staff. The patients themselves did not appear much in these images nor do any of the oral interviews I scrolled through on Ionia involve patients directly (a few were relatives telling patients stories), rather they were with former employees or members of the community who were in some way connected to the hospital.

Week Nine Resource Blog Post

The phrases “anxiety-themes T-shirts” and “mental health merch” really stood out to me when I saw this tweet, especially with the topics of diagnosis and medication both beginning to become more prominent in the reading we have been doing as of late. The headline screenshotted and the tweet itself both portray different ideas about how much one should really identify with both of these themes, with the author of the tweet poking fun at the idea of having these things on a t-shirt and the commercialisation of mental health, as well as at the idea of basically turning oneself into a walking advertisement for pharmaceuticals.

Week Eight Resource Blog Post

After finishing Girl, Interrupted, I googled Susanna Kaysen because I was curious about her life following her memoir’s publication and subsequent popularity, and I found this interview from this May, where Kaysen reflected on the book thirty years later. I was especially intrigued by her answer to the question of what positive changes she has seen in the field of mental health care, to which she asked if she had to have seen any. She elaborated that she felt that the decrease in stigma has led to the over-medicalization of what are rational emotional reactions to the stressors of modern life (she brought up covid at various other points as one such example) and expressed mixed feelings about reduced periods of hospitalization as it did prevent people from becoming disconnected from the “outside world” but also as a result the hospital no longer felt like a refuge. This was interesting to me because these so often are thought of as “advancements” and part of an overall improvement of mental health care, but Kaysen obviously felt otherwise and had clear reasons for doing so that made sense when she explained them.

Week Seven Resource Blog Post

Lately I’ve been trying to waste less time scrolling on Twitter and as a result have taken to wasting more time scrolling on Pinterest, which is where I found this really wonderful image of a My Little Pony character edited into what appears to be an old picture of a gate labeled “hospital for the insane.” While unfortunately I do not think that I will be able to work this into my project, it does tie into the larger question of what sort of reactions people have to the physical environment of historic psychiatric hospitals. Here, the punchline is both the literal and more subtextual juxtaposition between a bright image from a piece of children’s media and a darker image of something that overall has a negative connotation (since saving this, my Pinterest feed has been overtaken by similar memes, the majority of which I’ve seen using photos of dark y2k era bedrooms or, and this has been particularly interesting to me given my own area of study, pictures from around the Soviet Union). The brief discussion of popular references to lobotomies last class immediately made me think of this, and it also reminded me a lot of the jokes made about “Kirkbride core” images earlier in the semester with the sort of aestheticization of that era of mental health care.

Week Six Resource Blog Post

This news article from a week ago covers a story that, while I did not realize it at the time that I bookmarked it as a potential source for a post, mirrors many of the stories in Women of the Asylum quite heavily. A woman in Pennsylvania was committed to a psychiatric facility by her ex-boyfriend, who is a cop, based on false claims that she was suicidal. Similar to many of the stories told by 19th century women regarding being involuntarily committed to asylums, the ex-boyfriend used involuntary psychiatric treatment as a method of furthering abuse and, as part of his role as a cop, was able to do so due to a power imbalance in the relationship that meant his word held more weight than the victim’s and that he was able to make the decision to have her committed without thorough assessment of her mental state.