Friday, October 2, 2015

Age and Changes


Mystery Bus Tour

“A group of patients went on a bus trip. We went towards New Westminster across the Patullo Bridge. We drove to Ladner. A lot of us had never seen Ladner before. We looked at the nice houses and different roads and farms and cattle, horses and sheep. We all liked Ladner very much, and enjoyed the ride too. Thank you Mrs. Franklin and bus driver.”

April 10, 1960 Leader

In the 1960's the focus at Essondale was on rehabilitation. On helping the patients transition from institution life to the outside world. There was more emphasis on psychosocial rehabilitation, vocational services, open wards and ward community meetings. There was even an Activities of Daily Living Unit established.

“I came to head up the Rehabilitation Program at Hillside in 1964. It was an attempt to provide basic preparation before people took the big leap into the community. We gave them a chance to get to a better setting. The idea was to provide meaningful work activity and prepare them for employment. We worked with two different groups: long-term patients who were going to move to boarding homes and patients who would live independently. The care we gave them was more individualized than on the wards. Once they left Riverview, a rehab officer would follow up with them in the community, make sure they had found work and were getting along well. It was quite a neat program.” 

Alice McSweeney Staff psychologist intermittently from 1948-1974

There were drastic changes to the Riverside building in 1965. Veterans were living at that building on Colony Farms and they were transferred to other areas on the grounds. The Riverside Building became a maximum security area.

Patients with criminal records associated with a mental disorder were admitted to the building. The first floor was dedicated to a concentrated treatment program for patients suffering from acute alcoholism. Ten years later, Riverview was designated the Forensic Psychiatric Service Commission and became a separate organization from the hospital. The non-forensic patients, over 90 of them, were transferred into other sections.

The Riverside building was renamed the Forensic Psychiatric Unit, becoming a 142-bed secure hospital to provide assessment and treatment to those found unfit to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity. It also provided care for the prisoners who became mentally ill during incarceration.

Also in 1965, the BC Mental Health Act was passed. This act combined five previous laws relating to mental health care, encouraged "locally operated mental health services" and the creation of mental health societies.

Overcrowding at Essondale continued and many of the buildings were beginning to show their age. The Crease Clinic though shone in comparison.

“When provincial NDP leader Robert Strachan toured the provincial mental hospital in November 1964 he described Essondale as old and overcrowded, but clean. ‘Old metal beds are lined up so close in the dormitories that there is no room for bedside tables where patients could keep personal belongings,’ Strachan said. In contrast, adjoining Crease Clinic, for short-term care, is bright and well furnished. ‘I didn’t know what was wrong with Essondale until I saw Crease Clinic,’ Strachan said.”

Vancouver Sun, November 25, 1964

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

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill


  1. very good portrayal of Essendale


    1. Thank you Dennis. I love what I am learning about the place.