tv Reel America We the Mentally Ill... - 1955 CSPAN November 14, 2020 10:00pm-10:29pm EST
>> r.i.m a mental patient at saint elizabeth's hospital in washington, d.c. for ages, people like us have been hidden in darkness. families don't like to talk about their members in a mental hospital. people think there is something worse about being mentally hospital them -- mentally ill than being sick with pneumonia. it is not true. and tonight, mental patients from around the country are gathered together to strip away that dark this. and in a moment you will see others like me. you will learn from us how mental patients used to be treated. the conditions of our hospitals today and the new hope that we have now to get well again.
let's take the first part. how we used to be treated. i am standing on a stage. behind me, my fellow patients at saint elizabeth's are celebrating our centennial. they are performing a play written by ourselves. it is about our founder, dorothy lynn dix who lived back when lincoln did and fought for better treatment for people like us. each person in the play is a mental patient. each one and his doctor and guardian gave his permission better able tobe understand the president by being able to understand the past. mental patients like us doing a play for the public. anything like that is a astonishing on off today but it could never have happened 100 years ago when dorothea lynn
mission sundays go on went to visit a jail outside of boston. ♪ >> shall wade try the second verse and this time -- shall we try the second verse? and this time come everyone saying. -- and this time, everyone s ing. [screaming] they able to join us? >>, on out of there. on out of there. what a horrible sight. these people are half naked. they look starved and utterly helpless. >> don't let them fool you,
miss. this is just their feeding time. might as well get to it and get it over with. [grunting sounds] >> you don't even treat them like human beings. why is it so cold in here? >> you don't understand, miss. we keep it cold back there in order to preserve the body. they are practically corpses. n, let's get out of here. it is this group of prisoners that need your attention, not that bunch of lunatics. >> it is inhuman and i think something should be done about it. corporation, your ladies. i hope you enjoyed the singing as much as i did. >> will you, again?
-- will you come again? >> yes, i plan to come again. snuff.t forget the >> i will bring a naff. and for these people back here, i intend to make sure they have food and clothing. >> take them to the lord. >> we will see about that. dixorothea lynn never forgot what she saw that day. and when she had seen enough and heard enough, she said out on a personal crusade for reform. here in another scene enacted by my fellow mental patients at saint elizabeth's, we find her before the state legislator in massachusetts. president,r.
gentlemen of the legislature of massachusetts's, i have come here today to ask for your help for the poor, unfortunate people who are called lunatics. and theisited the jails so-called lunatic asylum and have seen these poor, miserable no fault ofrough their own have been exposed to the most cruel and heartless treatment at the hands of those that are supposed to be their caretakers. i will not be able to create for howhear a true picture of they are treated. i have seen these creatures beaten, stripped of their clothing and chained. [screaming] dorothea: i have come to present humanitym of suffering.
the condition of the miserable and the desolate and the outcast. with my own eyes, i have seen human beings put into living quarters not fit for swine. i have smelled the stench of decaying flesh and all manner of filth. i come as the advocate of the signess, forgotten come in mennside -- insane unti and women. i have even witnessed these poor creatures being denied the common humanity of food and water. [crying] in order to arrest or
bring upon a subject all the more strongly pressing because it is revolting and disgusting and its details. i have uncovered cruelty and a lack of understanding on the part of those that are supposed to be caretakers. did you never learn to talk, dummy? [moaning] dorothea: if my pictures are displeasing or severe, my subjects must be recollected. these unfortunate beings were shown to the public as if they were --. [moaning] >> quiet down in there. ying]
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> our play takes two hours to tell the full story of what dorothea dix bid for us. we will come back to it later. now that you have seen conditions as they were in her day, let's go to another mental hospital and hear from patients themselves about conditions common today even at such a progressive place as the new jersey state hospital in trenton, the first she ever found it. dorothea: this is my hospital. it looks very pretty from the outside, doesn't it?
plenty of room for the squirrels and the birds. come on in. here for twots years. i want you to come inside and see what i see every day. mainis used 12 and the building that was so pretty from the outside. look at it for yourselves. 118 patients in this one board alone. a board intended for only 60. and we are all in each other's way. there are patients here that have been living in this ward for over 20 years. it is crowded and smelly but some do not remember any other home. now, you see what i mean? you don't hear the noises we hear all day. it rings in your ears all day. and we only have one nurse here and we hardly ever see her. if you don't believe me, ask ms. perry. >> she is right.
i'm the only registered nurse on this floor with 118 patients. altogether. 150 patients. with two student nurses and maybe three attendants, we have all week can do to bathe the patients, get them to the cafeteria, take them to the doctors, get them their medication and try to keep the place clean. we have no time to read up on their charts and find up about -- and follow up on their diagnosis to try to help them. 1.5 person is intended to minutes of an employee's time. they have a total of 4.5 minutes per day. this sounds bad but you should see some of the other buildings here. >> you have come to where we live. --is what we call the building for the criminal and the insane.
this has been my home for 15 months. dormitory one. look at how the beds are crowded together. no place to put your clothing. and hardly -- not healthy at all. with hard to get to sleep the jibber jabber of 32 guys or more than 60. once a man broke a window. he tried to kill himself with a piece of glass. i'm scared sometimes i will get hurt. we spend 14, 15 hours per day in here. the building supervisor can tell you how we feel about that. >> some patients do not want to have any part of a wart. >> the room downstairs is no better. crowded. people spit on the floor. it smells bad. we have to wait to go to the dining room in shifts. no wonder we had a big right
here the 29th of november. broom building may be bad. i don't know. i've not been in there. four miles out. this was temporary housing for the navy in 1942. they had an airport near here. they moved us out here because we were so crowded down at the hospital. they call it the colony. they try to make it over but look at it. for eight years, we have been living in these shambles. go inside if you want to see what it is like. rickety stairs. double-decker beds. crammed together. bad plumbing. and always out of order. and some patients have no place at all to put their clothing. as for a doctor, we hardly get the time we would like to talk to a doctor.
>> that is true. i'm dr. bennett. i'm the psychologist out here. one psychiatrist for over 600 patients. what can you expect? we are presently in the process of moving these people out of here. some of them are going down to the new hospital where we hope i will get the type of help they need. superintendent, can tell you more about that. are closing down the colony as fast as we can. we have already built a new building here and we are planning the reconstruction of another. hardlythese moves will solve our problems. problems come to state hospitals across the country. basic problems, strange as it may seem is public apathy. that 100 years ago confronted our founder,
dorothea dix. >> and so, you have heard from mental patients themselves and those who are trying to help them. of the crowded conditions and the shortage of staff in mental hospitals. suddenly now, there is new hope for all, for youth the public to pay the bills and for us, the mentally sick. this real chance for many of us to get well again is due to research in mental illness. one of the most helpful contributions of that research is new drugs. is the story from the lips of mental patients. >> do you speak english? >> yes. >> do you speak english? >> i was very upset. they made me sick. i could not even talk to the doctor. >> it says here that you heard voices. is that true? >> yes. >> what did the voices say to
[indiscernible] this is four days later. after the doctor gave me some medicine to help me. now, i am not so mixed up. i can day focused. >> you were telling me there was something wrong with the neighborhood. what was wrong with the neighborhood? you said you wanted to jump out the window. is that true? you tried to jump out the window come is that right? >> [indiscernible] i live on the seventh floor. [indiscernible]
>> i see. >> [indiscernible] did you feel at home that people were doing something to you? think that they did bad things? >> this is me when i am ready to leave the hospital. i am better now. >> how would you compare your condition today to the way it was when you first came here? >> i remember. >> what is the difference? head.was something in my i could not help it. >> what did you feel then that you don't feel now? i just feel like talking to
myself. >> what will you do when you leave the hospital? >> i have to work hard. >> and what do you plan to do when you leave the hospital? , i won'twhen i go home have the children with me for a while. i don't know. i said goodbye to my doctors. and i go to see my children again. i am very happy to go home. >> sally is going home today. andreated her with drugs psychiatry. these new medicines have affect did a tremendous change in all
psychiatric treatment. as a result of their use, who were considered to be untreatable or who had resisted all other forms of treatment have now been helped. with the use of these drugs, we have made tremendous inroads with patients that have been in hospitals all over the country for many years. these drugs have given american medicine with your help and support the greatest opportunity of this age to reduce the huge burden of mental illness. here at saint elizabeth hospital, there are patients that number literally in the thousands. we are witnessing dramatic progress in this search for more effective treatments of mental illness. over the years, thanks to persistent pioneering of many people, many new techniques have
been added now. with the advent of these new tranquilizing drugs come it seems not too much to say that we are on the verge of an entirely new era of treatment of mental illness. since we have been using these drugs at saint elizabeth hospital, we're virtually discontinued electric shock treatment. that is perhaps one measure of the effectiveness of these drugs. two out of three of the patients who come to saint elizabeth numerousthanks to the tools which we now have at our command have been able to return home. that in itself is the most convincing proof i can offer for the statement that the problem is not andisorder insurmountable one. i believe that the opportunity to close in on this huge problem
is within sight. we have but to grasp it. yes, medicine is closing in on mental illness and what better evidence of this than mental patients joining tonight with our hospital staff to tell you the history of our past and the hope of our present. but what about the future from your point of view as well as our own? let's go back to new jersey, to a man that counted among his responsibilities the hospital founded by dorothea dix that you visited at trenton. we asked him to join with us tonight because he has thought long about our problem and yours. >> i am robert b minor, governor of new jersey. stateve seen the problems hospitals face. behind me is a new mental hospital opened to help relieve
the burden and yet in a matter of months, this new hospital will be filled to capacity. indeed, at the current rate at -- of increase of mental illness requiring 500 new beds in each year, new jersey may soon need a fifth at the hospital and then a six and then a seventh ad infinitum. chances are that the situation prevails in your own state. the problem we all face together to -- we eternally going millions upon millions to house our unfortunates or should we are attacked this frankenstein monster before it devours us? i think we should attack. andck with a constructive spiritual approach to mental illness so that many people now in confinement may be restored to their homes and families and gainful occupations.
so many people now threatened with mental illness can be given early treatment to forestall months and years of confinement. we can do it by voting more money for research. we can do it by creating a proper atmosphere. giving them more doctors, nurses, and attendants and the benefit -- and the promises of beneficial new therapies. it our full corporation to organizations like the national association for mental health, a century and a half ago, the mentally ill were set free from their chains. in the last half-century, there has been a steady improvement and care and a steady search for new answers. with your support, there is every evidence that the next decade will produce more victories in the war against mental disease than have ever been won before.
fieldking on the fieldg on the crime ying ♪ >> and so we returned to our at theth workmen singing groundbreaking of what is to become our hospital, saint elizabeth's. the culmination of dorothea dix's struggle. we are content to leave our last words to one of those who spoke the first. ♪ dorothea: i came to present the strong claim of suffering humanity. i placed before you the condition of the miserable. advocate of the