I was appalled to discover a few weeks ago the heart-wrenching story of my Great-Grandmother, who was admitted to a mental institution in the early 1930s while there was nothing apparently wrong with her. She died at the young age of 34, and was buried among the masses of other mistreated patients of the Central State Hospital in Norman, Oklahoma. We have no photos of her, no records of her…it is as if her memory was wiped from the planet.
We have come so far in the mental health field, yet have so far to go. In processing Great-Grandma Mabel’s story, I have become even more determined to see that those who struggle with real mental illness are treated rightly, that they are loved and cared for.
In Mabel’s time, mental health patients were treated almost worse than caged animals. They lacked proper care, living out their days in overcrowded concrete hallways with only a handful of doctors for every few hundred patients. One story says that in the hospital where Mabel passed away, patients had nothing to do but sit and stare at blank walls. They would be locked up for hours and hours, with no human interaction. The food was a joke, and the kitchen itself presented several health and safety issues which went unmet. Perhaps an early death was better for her than an estranged, lonely existence in such a dismal place.
As appalling as the story is, I feel it is important to preserve the memory of those who suffered unjustly in such a place. History can teach us many lessons. May we never allow others to suffer as these hundreds and thousands of patients suffered.
Please read the article, and let the dark past of humanity teach you the critical value of loving others, even those who are difficult to understand: