Friday, September 18, 2015

Poetic Lobotomy

My Alma Mater

I'm nuts about my Alma Mater, dear old Essondale
I love it like the old grads love, Their Harvard, Duke or Yale

I'm wild about their shock treatments, And coma-insulin
They've got the best lobotomies, This side of old Pokin.

So here's a toast to sewing room, To dorm and concert hall,
The doctors and the nurses, By goom, I love them all.

This poem by A.R. E3, was published in The Leader newsletter in 1948. The Leader newsletter was produced at Essondale and started in 1947. It ran for 30 years and kept patients, staff and families informed about what was happening at the settlement. 

The Provincial Mental Health Services were amalgamated in 1950. The Provincial Hospital for the Insane in New Westminster was renamed Woodlands School and became a home for the developmentally disabled until its closure in 1996.

September 18, 1930. Dominion Photo Co took this photo of the kitchen block being built at Essondale.

The kitchen block a year later. Same photographers.

 Sept. 3, 1929, the Dominion Photo Company took this shot of the Female Chronic Building under construction.
The Dominion Photo Company took this photo of the Veterans' Unit being built on August 19, 1930. These four photographs from The City of Vancouver archives

When the Crease Clinic opened its operating room that meant that lobotomies could now be performed at Essondale. The wisdom at the time was that if a surgeon cut connections to and from the pre-frontal cortex, they could effectively treat a wide variety of mental illness such as schizophrenia, clinical depression and anxiety disorders.

According to the records, 50 lobotomies were performed at Essondale in 1951. 33 of those patients showed improvement and 12 were discharged.

Another method used to treat schizophrenic patients was electro-convulsive therapy - ECT. The basic program was three times a week but some patients had it three times a day. In 1950, 413 patients received ECT at Essondale.

"E.C.T. is credited with a greater percentage of recovered and improved patients, diminished hospitalization for discharged patients and a better quality of insight in the patients with remissions. What statistics fail to show is the number of lives saved particularly in the affective psychoses. Briefly, we may expect 75% of affective to show sustained improvement on E.C.T. and 50% of schizophrenics."

BC Psychiatric Physicians Services Manual, 1951

A 1940 photo of a horse from Colony Farm at Essondale.

March 17, 1930. Dominion Photo Company. Veterans Block and Kitchen Unit.

May 31, 1929. Dominion Photo Company. Female Chronic Building.

Colony Farm with Essondale in the background. 1913 photo taken by W.J. Moore Photo Co.
Four photographs courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives. 

A former logger, farmer, Navy veteran and present day nurse by the name of Art Finnie was asked to set up a garden on a two-acre plot of land located high on the hill near West Lawn. This was the start of horticultural therapy at Essondale. The idea was that the patients would be able to enjoy being outdoors and work in the garden. A draftsman patient drew up the plans and it became known as Finnie's Garden.

If we look at Essondale in 1950, we see that the principal treatments were ECT, electronarcosis, somnolent/coma insulin therapy, lobotomies and individual and group psychotherapy.
106 patients daily attended the Occupational Therapy shops where they did needle work, wood work, metal work, leather work, weaving, painting, pottery and other arts and crafts. The recreational therapy included tennis, bowling, movies, weekly dances, swimming in indoor and outdoor pools, parlour games (checkers, cards, dominoes), regular quiz shows and bingo parties, as well as an annual Field Day.

Essondale had 4,427 patients. That year, 1,415 were admitted, 1,021 were discharged and 318 died. On trial visits were 296. The hospital had 20 RN nurses with a staff to patient ratio of 1/232 and the cost per patient per day was $2.71.

Thanks to the PDF, Riverdale, A Legacy of Care and Compassion for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill

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