We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Riehl found a series of excellent photos of the now-abandoned Weston State Hospital in West Virginia. Construction of this handsome building began before the Civil War.
Abandoned state mental hospitals are gathering dust across the country, due to the deinstitutionalization movement begun by President Kennedy, prompted in part by new effective treatments for chronic mental disorders and in part by horror stories of poor care and abuse of patients.
Cramer often writes (recent example here) about some of the tragedies of deinstitutionalizing those who cannot handle life. Some significant percent of urban homeless would probably have been in institutions in the past. For schizophrenia, medicine can control some disruptive symptoms, but most schizophrenics still have a terrible time dealing with the demands of reality.
Our town has a "group home" for these people, with plenty of support and structure. It seems to work very well, but only for those who want the help and are willing to take their medicine.
Is there still a need for asylums? I don't know. They appear haunted to me.
The question at hand, in the photo essay, is whether these big old buildings are worth preserving, and can be put to any use.
This would make a great bed and breakfast. An outfit named McMenamins runs a number of unique establishments here in the PACNW, one of which is a converted mental hospital like this one.
They take over old buildings and refit them for b+b, movie theaters (with beer booze and pizza) pitch and putt golf, brewing, wine making, fine dining, etc. THis isn't a direct plug other than I really like the places for their oldness (they maintain as much character as possible from the buildings and places) and quality entertainment, so look them up if you are curious.
I always wonder if anyone else is doing similar things in other parts of USA.
Schizophrenia and manic mental illnesses are tough. Once seriously dated a man whose brother was afflicted- he’d forget his meds, refuse them, abuse other “chemicals” or, even on his meds, be not quite grounded or trustworthy. Was worried about babies having the gene or having children and grandchildren around such a person in the family. The brother was into guns and had threatened violence on several occasions out of raging anger and jealousy; much of his creativity was channeled into either violent or sexual thought and often a combo (way beyond outré sex-play scenarios). People deal with mentally ill close ones, are forced to try, but it isn’t an easy life for anyone, patient or friends and family. This man needed institutional care in a reputable, responsible facility-- there was no other sure, safe fix to protect him and others.
Seems there are a lot of minimally functioning and mainstreamed mentally unbalanced who somewhat get along below the radar or through masterful manipulation. We all meet them from time to time; after encounters, I try to doubt my sanity to feel sane…
Often, buildings can be more easily rehabilitated into useful life. How can this asylum not be haunted by the miseries of the haunted-in-life, with lingering and palpable effects? But there is therapy through renovation of structure and restoration of spirit. I once rehabbed an old frame house in which one of the rooms had the centers of the walls and ceiling punched out. One late night working alone there I realized that a man had hung himself, kicking out the walls as he swung. Took every thing I had to ever be on the premises by myself… But good life was brought back to the redone structure; a young family was able to move in and give the place a new start on life.
Bleh on my comment. It’s quite a state we’re in when buildings and atmospherics are easier to fix than people and their defective genes or damaged spirits. Knowing that, though, shouldn’t mean a forever generous giving away of one’s safety and other interests. My sympathy ends where another’s hostile and violent projections begin, no matter the nature of its source.
Anyway, the line between willful malice and pathology is muddy as hell. How to regard criminals and jihadists-- as deeply disturbed perps or as victims of innate and environmental circumstance? Those who believe in free will must take responsibility for what they do, to include not getting remediated or cured through medical/ psychotropic intervention when it’s called for. Else there’s only genetic, bio-chemical and social-existential psychotic determinism for everybody, and not just for the extremely afflicted.
Well, I've worked in one of those institutions for the last 30 years, and have seen both people and buildings rehabbed.
The laws of freedom flow directly into de-institutionalization. In most places, if you are not immediately dangerous to yourself or others, you may not be held against your will. The good result is that being annoying is not criminalized; the bad result is that people who have no insight into their need for treatment live miserable lives. I have had many patients die with their rights on.
This is not easily solvable. If we decrease the freedom to refuse treatment, families, friends, and well-meaning communities respond by demanding "good" behavior rather than merely safe behavior. That is not a theoretical observation on my part. Community treatment providers (overwhelmingly liberal) are often looking for "leverage" to increase "compliance" in very illiberal ways. They mean well. They want people to have good lives. If the people won't they want to make them have them.
Assistant Village Idiot