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tv   Reel America We the Mentally Ill... - 1955  CSPAN  November 21, 2020 8:01am-8:31am EST

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, four films about mental health. first, "we the mentally ill." medicineh of television broadcast includes a play staged by patients from saint elizabeth's hospital and a visit to the new jersey state hospital in trenton. policeinutes, a 19 65 training film produced by the louisiana health department. features foure" policemen and the different situations they face on a daily basis. story," a 1944 u.s. coast guard training field dramatizing the emotional problems a new recruit will experience. we conclude our look in 90 minutes with a 1950 field -- 1953 film. "roots of happiness" contrasts a happy family where the father respects and loves his wife with children with a struggling and unhappy family filled with
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hostility and neglect. [heartbeat] >> i am a mental patient at saint elizabeth hospital in washington, d.c.
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for ages, people like us have been hidden in darkness, families do not like to talk about their members in mental hospitals. people seem to think there is something worse about the mentally ill than being ill with pneumonia. well, it is not true and because it is not true, tonight mental patients all over the country are gathering together to strip away that darkness. now you can see me 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 no to get well again. -- 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 our celebrating our centennial. they are performing a play
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written by ourselves. it is about our founder, dorothea 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 his guardian gave his permission that you might see us do it, that you might understand the present by understanding the past. mental patients like us doing a play for the public, anything like that is astonishing enough -- anything like that is astonishing enough today but it could never have happened 100 years ago when dorothea dix on a sunday school mission, went to visit a jail outside of boston. >> shall we try the second verse? and this time everyone singing.
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[singing and humming] [screaming] fun?w could you ruin our >> are they able to join us? >> come on out of here. sight.what a horrible these people are half naked, they look starved and so utterly helpless. >> don't let their look fool you none, they don't feel a thing. it is just about their feeding time, might as will do it and get it over with. [sobbing] three mouths to feed.
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>> you don't even treat them like human beings. and why is it so cold in here? >> you don't understand, miss, we keep it cold back here in order to preserve the bodies. they are practically corpses anyway. come on, 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. thank you for your cooperation, ladies, i hope you enjoyed the singing as much as i did. will you come again? >> yes i plan to return in the , near future. >> do not forget the snuff. >> i will remember to bring enough for all of you. and as for these people back here, i intend to see that they get food, warmth, and proper clothing.
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>> don't tell me your troubles, miss, take them to the -- -- take them to the lord. >> we'll see about that. >> dorothea dix never forgot what she saw at the jail that day, she traveled about and learned some more and when she had seen enough, and heard enough, she set out on a personal crusade for reform. here in another scene, enacted by my fellow mental patients at saint elizabeth, we find her before the state legislature in massachusetts. >> mr. president, gentlemen of the legislature of massachusetts, i have come here today to ask your help for those poor unfortunate people who are called lunatics. i have visited the jail in the -- and the so called lunatic
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asylum and have seen these poor souls through no fault of their own have been exposed to the most cruel and heartless treatment at the hands of those who are supposed to be caretakers. i will not be able to create for you here a true picture of the scene that surrounds these poor unfortunate. -- unfortunate. i have seen these creatures beaten, stripped of their clothing, and chained. [screaming] >> stop. >> some present the strong claim of suffering humanity, i come before the legislature of massachusetts the condition of the miserable, the desolate, 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.
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[screaming] i come as the advocate of the helpless forgotten, insane, and idiotic men and women of the beings so stricken even the most unconcerned would start with real horror of being wretched. -- wretched in prisons and more in our almshouses. i have even witnessed of these poor creatures being denied the common humanity of food and water. >> do you want water? here is your water. >> and i cannot employ persuasion and argument in order to arrest or bring upon a subject all the more strongly pressing because it is revolting and disgusting in its detail. i have uncovered cruelty and gross lack of understanding on
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the part of those who are supposed to be caretakers. >> didn't you never learned to talk, donny? [crying] >> if my pictures are displeasing, coarse, or severe, my subject must be recollected. offer no tranquil for their -- tranquil, refined, or composing features. these unfortunate beings were put on exhibition and shown to the public as if they were freaks. >> please. >> quiet down in there, quiet. come on. >> condition of human beings, reduced to extremist states of degradation and misery cannot be exhibited in softened language or adorned on a polished page. >> false accusation.
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lies, lies, she is a lunatic herself. >> she should not be able to stand here and tell us these fantastic tales. >> order, order. gentlemen, please, order. >> her one-woman fight to help us, the mentally ill never gave her a moments rest even when she caught a few winks of sleep, worn and weary from her struggles, she saw our need in her dreams. ♪
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♪ >> our play takes two hours to tell the full story of what dorothea dix did for us. we will come back to it later, but 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 the conditions common today. even at such a progressive place as the new jersey state hospital in trenton. the first she ever founded. >> this is my hospital, looks very pretty from the outside, doesn't it? plenty of room for the birds and squirrels, but come on in and take a look inside. i have been a patient here in this building for two years, i want you to come in and see what i see every day.
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this is east 12 in the main building. it was so pretty from the outside, look at it for yourself. there are 118 patients in this one ward alone. a ward intended for only 60, some are more disturbed than others and were 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, and some do not remember any other home. now you see what i mean. you do not hear the noises we hear all day, it rings in your ears all day. we only have one nurse here and we hardly ever see her. if you do not believe me, ask her. >> she is absolutely right, i am the only registered nurse on this board with 118 patients, the ailing and grieving altogether amounts to about 150 patients. with six student nurses and -- with two student nurses and
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maybe three attendants, we have all we can do to bathe the patients, get them to the cafeteria, taken to the doctor, give them their medication, and try to keep the place clean. we have no time to read up on their charts and find out about their diagnosis to try and help them. we figured it out the other day that each single person is entitled to 1.5 minutes of an employee's time which means they have a total of 4.5 minutes per day, this sounds bad but you should see some of the other buildings here. >> you come to where we live, it -- through barred doors. it is what we call the boom building for the criminally insane. this has been my home for 15 months, dormitory one. look at how the beds are crowded together no chairs to sit on, no , place to put your clothes, hardly any ventilation, not healthy at all. it is hard to get to sleep with jibber jabber from 32 guys, more
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than 60 counting rungs. some mighty disturbed, once a man tried to kill himself with a piece of glass. i am scared sometimes i'm going to get hurt, we spend 14-15 hours a day in here. the building supervisor can tell you how we feel about that. >> some patients do not want any part of the ward, they will stir up trouble so we will take them out of here and sent into a cell. >> the day room 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 riot here the 20th of november. >> the building may be bad, i don't know, i have not been in there, but look where we crowded patients live, four miles out of the hospital. this was temporary housing for
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the navy in 1942, they had an airport right near here. they moved us out here because we were so crowded down at the hospital. they call it the colony, they spent a fortune on this place to try and 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, old navy double-decker beds, people crowded together, plumbing bad and always getting out of order. some patients have no place at all to put their clothes. as for a doctor, we hardly get the time we would like to talk to a doctor. >> that is true, i'm dr. bennett, and ia™m a psychiatrist -- and i am the psychiatrist out here. i am one psychiatrist for over 600 patients, what can you expect? we are presently in the process of moving these people out of
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here, some of them are going down to the new hospital where we hope they will get the type of help they need. but dr. mcgee, our superintendent can tell you more about that. >> yes, we 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. all these moves will far from solve our problems. problems common to state hospitals throughout the country. the basic problem, strange as it may seem, is public apathy, the very thing 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. but suddenly now, there's new hope for all, for you the public
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who 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 and one of the most hopeful contributions of that research is new drugs. hear this story to from mental -- hear this story too from the lips of mental patients. >> do you speak english? >> this was new when i came to the hospital, i was very upset. they make me sick, i cannot even talk to the doctor. >> it says over here you hear voices, is that true? >> yes. >> what do the voices say to you? >> [indiscernible] >> what do the voices say to you? what do the voices say to you, sally?
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>> [indiscernible] >> is god speaking to you now? what is god saying to you now, sally? >> god says be nice girl, be nice lady. no, i do not want it, you can have it. [speaking foreign language]
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[vocalizing] this is days later after the doctor gave me some medicine to help me. now i am not so mixed up, i talked to him all day. -- ok. >> you were telling me there is something wrong in the neighborhood, is that right? 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. >> i was on the seventh floor. and sometimes, when i see a kid trying to hit my children, i wish i could jump out of the window and killed them. >> i see. >> my children are small. six years old, that is not too
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big. >> do you feel at home people were doing something purposely to you? >> only to my children. >> you think they picked him up purposely to do bad things? >> this is me when i'm ready to leave the hospital. i am better now. >> how would you compare your condition today with the way it was when you first came here, do you remember how you were? what is the difference? >> i know there is something in my head, but i cannot help it. >> what did you feel than that you do not feel now? >> i feel like i talked just to myself, not to anybody else, just myself. >> what are you going to do when you leave the hospital? >> i'm not going to work too hard when i get out, but then i have to work hard. >> you have to work hard. what do you plan to do when you
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leave the hospital, when you go home? >> i think that out when i go home i do not have the children with me for a while. i will take a long rest when i got home, read a lot of books. i said goodbye to my doctor and i go to see my children again. i am very happy to go home. >> sally is going home today, we did the treatment with new drugs in psychiatry, drugs not even available as much as two years ago. they are -- these new medicines have affected a tremendous change in all of psychiatric treatment. as of their result of their use patients who were hitherto , unmanageable or untreatable or who have resisted all other forms of treatment now have been helped. with the use of these drugs we
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have made tremendous growth with -- inroads with patients in our hospitals all over the country for many, 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. -- that falls upon us all. >> here at saint elizabeth's hospital, there are patients numbered literally in the thousands. we are witnessing dramatic progress in the search for a more effective treatment 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, it seems not too much to say that we are on the verge of an entirely new era in the treatment of mental illness.
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since we have been using these drugs at saint elizabeth's hospital, we have 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's hospital, thanks to the numerous tools which we now have at our command, is able to return home. that, in itself is the most convincing proof i can offer for the statement that the problem of mental disorder, vast though it is, it is, is not an insurmountable one. i believe 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 than a mental patient joining tonight with our
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-- 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 who counts among his responsibilities, the hospital founded by dorothea dix that you visited at trenton. we are joined tonight because he -- we asked him to join with us tonight because he has thought long about our problems and yours. >> i am robert miner, governor of new jersey, you are seeing the problems state hospitals face. behind me is a costly new mental hospital opened here to help relieve the burden. yet in a matter of months, this new hospital will be filled to capacity. indeed, at the current rate of increase in mental illness requiring 500 new beds a year, new jersey may soon need a fifth mental hospital, then a sixth,
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then a seventh, ad infinitum. the chances are with the same situation prevails in your own state, the problem we all face together is, are we eternally going on to millions upon millions to house the poorly -- poor unfortunate, or should we attack this frankenstein monster before it devours us? i think we should attack, attack with a constructive, human, and spiritual approach to mental illness so that many people now in confinement may be restored to their homes and their families and their gainful occupations so that many people now threatened with mental illness may be given early treatment to forestall months and years of confinement. we can do it by voting more money for research and mental illness. research which has many rays of hope, we can do it by creating a proper atmosphere conducive to
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recovery in our hospitals. getting them more doctors, more nurses, more attendance, and the benefits of, sing new therapies. -- benefits of promising new therapies. and we can do it each and everyone of us by giving our full cooperation 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 in 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. >> ♪ o, working on the building. working on the building, lord. building, trying
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hard to get back home. ♪ >> and so we return to our play with workman singing at the groundbreaking for what is to become our hospital, saint elizabeth's. the culmination of dorothea dix's struggle, as we the mentally ill bring you to this, our final scene, we are content to leave our last word to one of those who spoke the first. >> ♪ i would not have this race to run. building. ♪ the >> i came to present the strong claim of suffering humanity, i placed before you the condition of the miserable, the desolate, the outcast. i came as the advocate of the helpless forgotten, insane, and idiotic men and women. to the condition of human beings -- the condition of human beings are reduced to extremist states of degradation and misery could not have been exhibited in softened language. i commit to you, this.
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-- the sacred cause. ♪ [heart] -- heartbeat] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [heartbeat]


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