Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Repeating Willowbrook

Let me tell you a story...

Long, long before I was even born, or even my own parents, a term was coined in Europe. Today, we use it as a mild insult, but in the 1800- early 1900's this was an actual diagnosis.

A diagnosis that had to be treated.

The diagnosis?

"Imbecile". It was of the worst social ranking one could think of. Often, women and occasionally men who carried this diagnosis were sterilized. Since this is not a blog of nightmares, I shall spare you the details...but let me be clear: 

The procedure was done in an inhumane manner...and many died. With no anesthesia.

But we declared progress! as these were lives that did not matter in the eyes of both the European and American governments. In fact, their only usefulness was to benefit society as...well...

Human experiments.

These innocent souls were often the last course of treatment before (often lethal) drugs were to enter the market. And if any man survived, he got to live for the rest of his life at the mercy of Herr Doktor...

I have made reference to the second world war, my strong distaste for Adolf Hitler (if Satan ever walked the earth in the 1900's, it was in the body of this creature I refuse to call a man), but did you know that the eugenics experiments that were permitted in the internment camps (unwilling human experimentation, unnecessary procedures to correct problems such as verbal handicap or just having the wrong colored eye) were not born of Hitler's?

Or of the sadistic doctor over at Auschwitz, Josef Mengele?

No no....

These ideas were born in the good ol' US of A. And were borrowed with our permission


Here we are.

Another Children's Mental Health Awareness week.

I don't want to write a post daily, one because it started on the 5th and it's now the 7th...but because over this past summer I learned a few new things about how psychiatry was born, and I must say that if any here had an inkling of what I stumbled upon (no one would ever chase after madness of purpose, now would they?), you would be sickened and horrified.

And more so if you live in the state of Missouri...because our governor, Jay Nixon, wishes to re-open Fulton state Hospital.

If this succeeds, then we will have failed to learn from our history.

When I was doing my homework (born only from legitimate sources) this past summer, I ran into something that almost caused me to vomit. All it was, was old equipment used at Fulton State. Fulton is a small town 15 minutes away from me, and this hospital still has a few wings open. I want and need to believe in order for me to sleep that these people are treated with dignity. I pray out to whomever is listening, cry out when my own sanity vanishes, both grateful that I get to live in my own home and terrified that means someone else is being mistreated maybe for wrongs I have even done in my life...

...I just never got caught

What I saw were pictures of cages..wire cages that often house commercial chicken for the slaughter. If I advocated for meat eating for the sake of eating meat, I'd say each cage could fit three chickens. This would at least give tem room enough to stretch and root about.

But no...these aren't for chickens. There was a padlock, rusted with time and witness to endless acts of senseless human violence tightly locked at the TOP of the cage. These cages were for housing up to three people as punishment. 

Did you know, that if you are taking a new psychiatric medication on the market within the last ten years (think Latuda, Cymbalta, Saphris, Symbyax...) that you are also part of human experimentation? The ten year trial includes you and any adverse events, including death, that occur thereof.

Look it up. If you can understand legal terms, it's public knowledge that goes unadvertised.

But enough about that...

...if this is how we treat ourselves as adults, then what are we doing to protect our kids?


My youngest brother asked for help for an issue, and I was grateful this involved intervention from a third party and no medication. But the ONLY reason he knew to ask, was because I also had to go through getting similar help. Otherwise, I shudder to think what might have happened.

We don't teach anything in our schools about mental health, save for the occasional English class that might watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest after reading the book (which are totally different. If you've never read the book, it's beyond great reading). In my lifetime, the term "retard" is derogatory due to the volumes that one word speaks...but in the 1980's it was perfectly acceptable.

In Staten Island, there used to be a facility run by the government called "Willowbrook State School", and it was encouraged by family doctors for children with Down's syndrome, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and other diagnoses to drop their delayed children off at places like Willowbrook. Parents understood that -- at the insistence of the hospital's single psychiatrist for over 400 people -- that their children appeared to be getting worse due to disease progression. Visiting rooms were far from where these children, both young and grown, actually lived.

In 1985, professional self important jerk Giraldo Rivera did an expose on this institution as an investigative journalism piece called Willobrook: The Last Great Disgrace. They came in uninvited and unannounced, taping the real horrors.

Children bound to walls

Human waste smeared on the floors

Lone workers corralling small youngsters roughly in order to lead a dozen or so children to one showering area (note, this was still the set up of Missouri state hospital, where I was hospitalized in a couple times)...

...I won't go further.

Once this ran on television, the governor was questioned as to WHY this was allowed to happen. He tripped on his own words, he not having a prescripted statement drawn up by a lawyer. Just a dumbfounded pawn that allocated funding into the wrong places.

In 1987, the year I was born, the last of the children left Willowbrook, many to go home...others to group homes.

I almost feel that Willowbrook's closing and my birth year are of no mistake.

Fulton State closed most of their units around the same time. So here we are again...due to budget cuts, and misinformation spewing from puppet politicians and laughable figures of both left and right sides of the aisle, psychiatric hospitals have had to close their doors. Beds remain full. Staff remain short. Group therapy dissolved into staring at the wall for 96 hours, or however long you end up there...

Willowbrook closed their doors because of unsanitary conditions and their experiments on the kids about cures for tuberculosis.

Fulton State was closed due to public outcry and a sudden flow of dollars came to help those who suffer from developmental disabilities...along with the  leaking of their own dirty little secrets.

Guess what?

Jay Nixon wants to reopen Fulton State.

Do not buy the insistence of humane care.

That was the Willowbrook myth.

And the first Fulton State myth.

If we are going to make any progress in education those who want to and those that refuse to become more well versed in how to give or receive help from any psychiatric of developmental condition, then those of us in the know need to put more effort in.

Our time is running out.

If those of us who are dedicated to this cause fail to present successfully why mental health dollars need to be funneled back in...

Then we are the ones responsible for repeating Willowbrook.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Danielle Nicole :) I am a new reader, referred thru "Let's Talk IBD" on Youtube ... I remember Willowbrook! I grew up in NJ, and I had a relative whose son was in the dashing playboy stage of his life (still is, at 70!) who always had a new, model-beautiful, g/f every time we visited... so this one time (& I can't even remember her name!) one of these women - I'll call her Jane - was a little bit more quiet than every other g/f he ever had ... my aunt explained to us (after they had left to go to a party), "She works at Willowbrook ... and she says people just don't understand who those people are like, and how hard she tries to keep them clothed, but they keep ripping them off." Now - I was a kid -but even then, I realized there was something making me feel uneasy about how she described what was supposed to be her 'helping profession' ... & I wasn't the only one, apparently: Jane was the only woman the playboy ever broke up with because of her JOB ... Currently I am living in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia ... aye, but if you only knew about the history of the psychiatric hospital in Staunton....! Keep writing, and, keep being YOU :)