Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Somehow I Missed Out On Danvers

The Danvers State Insane Asylum was located in Massachusetts. Probably about 30 minutes from where I grew up.

It is probably the most infamous of the state asylums designed by Thomas Story Kirkbride. Kirkbride was a well respected mental health care authority who helped to originate the American Psychiatric Association in 1844. The association was originally known as the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane.

I like that name better.

Kirkbride believed the structural layout of mental health care facilities could help in the treatment of the insane. He developed a layout which came to be known as the Kirkbride Plan, which was based on the philosophy of the "Moral Treatment" approach. This approach was supposed to embody humane psychosocial care.

Didn't quite turn out that way.

His buildings were conceived as the perfect sanctuary for mental health recovery, maximizing exposure to sunlight and air, privacy and comfort, with beautifully manicured grounds.

Thirty asylums were built to this plan in the 1800's. These are the facilities you see in horror movies; big, sprawling, Victorian style monstrosities. Eventually they became too expensive to maintain and were shutdown.

Apparently the Danvers Asylum was confused about the definition of humane. Its notoriety comes from the rumor that it was the birthplace of the prefontal lobotomy.

If you are squeamish PLEASE do not read on. I am about to describe the process to you.

The prefrontal lobotomy was a neurosurgical procedure that consisted of severing the connections to and from the prefrontal cortex, the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the human brain. The surgeon would use a mallet to drive an icepick-like surgical instrument called an orbitoclast, through the eye, to the top of the eye socket, and then through a thin layer of bone and into the brain, where it would be swept side to side to sever the nerve fibers.

Danvers Hospital began admitting patients in 1878. Controversy erupted in the 1960's when it was exposed that not only were lobotomies going on, they were also using shock treatment, illegal drugs, straightjackets, and ice baths.

The exposure of these facts led to a decrease in inpatient population. Are you kidding me? They didn't shut the place down?

The 60's were a gentle and sensitive time.

The joint was finally closed in 1992.

I could have done a stint there. Would have done me some good.

Interestingly enough, Carol has been doing some research into the place. I was thumbing through her private diary yesterday and I came a cross the following entry: "Ways to help Joey - prefrontal lobotomy, shock treatment, illegal drugs, straightjacket, ice bath."

Her purchase history on Amazon includes an orbitoclast. I originally thought it was a special eyeliner apparatus.

Most of the buildings that made up the Danvers State Insane Asylum have been torn down. The remaining buildings have been converted into luxury apartments.

I would give anything to live in one of them.

OK. That's today's lesson in humanity and insanity.

Good luck making it through your day.

No comments:

Post a Comment