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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Creator: Frank L. Wright, Jr. (author)
Date: 1947
Publisher: National Mental Health Foundation, Inc.
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6  Figure 7  Figure 8  Figure 9  Figure 10  Figure 11  Figure 12  Figure 13  Figure 14  Figure 15  Figure 16  Figure 17

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"But did you ever see him when the state examiners come around? Then it's just the opposite. The paunchy potentate bows and scrapes to the state officials, shows them how low he's keeping the budget, and sends them away saying 'Bancroft makes a good hospital superintendent.' Gad, I wish they could see that stinkin' hole where my hundred and seventy patients live -- or die, rather!


"I don't wonder that most fellows who stay around here long get to saying 'Why worry' and 'Who cares.' Everybody from the garbage collector to the staff surgeon feels the same way."


"I'd go along with you, Jack, only -- "


"Yeah, I know, Don. It's the patients who pay. And you've got a soft spot in your heart for the poor devils. Well -- so long, and good luck."


(Based, on reports 267, 272 and 278)


Messes of Brick -- Masses of Men


"Too long the hospitals for mental diseases have been hospitals in name only, and. it is time that the administrators and psychiatrists, as well as others, connected directly or indirectly with these institutions make additional effort to improve existing conditions. Too long we have depended on the veneer covering the crumbling walls of our structures to give us the appearance of being the real article." (October 6, 1941.)


Delaware State Hospital.




"Certain technical things help to create the desired atmosphere of confidence and reassurance in the hospital and assist in rebuilding mentally sick patients. There is always a degree of exhaustion, both physical and mental, which must be counteracted by external measures such as ultra-comfortable beds, attractive and well-ventilated rooms, easy access to toilet facilities, and appetizing, nourishing food." (1)

(1) From The Human Mind, by Karl A. Menninger, M.D, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.




The tree-lined drive and the Colonial-type buildings reassured Walter considerably. Ever since the doctor at the admission hospital in the city had told him he was going to be transferred to a state hospital, Walter had been dreading what he might find there. But now, as he arrived, it looked quite nice. The rolling lawns, the spacious verandas, the spreading trees -- everything looked calm, peaceful, serene.


The car stopped in front of the main building, and the attendant who was transferring Walter said, "Well, here we are." They got out and went into a blue-tinted waiting room. Comfortable leather chairs, bright pictures and a rug on the floor made Walter feel at home. He had lost all his fear by the time the doctor had come in, talked to him, and put him in charge of an attendant.


Walter said goodbye to the old attendant and accompanied the new one through a short sunny hall to a locked door, marked Ward C. The attendant inserted his key, opened the door wide and waited for Walter to enter the ward.


Walter gasped and started back. Stale air, laden with a collection of repulsive odors, assailed his nostrils. His eyes looked into a long, dark hallway in which half-dressed men wandered up and down, muttering to themselves.


The attendant's hand pressed insistently on Walter's back. He moved across the threshold, and the door shut on the sunny hall. Walter had arrived.


Walter went through the rest of the admission procedures automatically, without speaking or thinking. He only observed. He found that the walls were dark gray, unbroken by pictures or decoration, except for rough patterns of lighter gray here and there where the plaster had fallen. The only furniture consisted of dark brown benches and one table. The part of the smell that didn't come directly from the two hundred unbathed, poorly clothed men came from the wooden floor. The seams and pores had opened up over the years so that everything that touched it -- spoiled food, dirty laundry, human waste -- left a little of itself behind.


He also found that the ward bathroom contained three toilet stools (all without covers or seats), one tub (no showers), and one deep sink. The sink served variously as urinal, drinking fountain, wash tub for bedpans, mop rinser, and dishpan for food plates.


Having made these observations and having taken his bath (which made him feel dirtier) and put on hospital clothes (which made him feel more undressed), Walter turned his attention to his fellow patients. He found it difficult to think of them as people. They seemed more like animals: a big herd of them penned up in one corral, milling about and making queer noises, unmindful of others except for an occasional push or snarl.


As these thoughts were going through Walter's mind, two attendants passed by making plans for taking the patients upstairs to dinner. One attendant said: "You go on ahead. I'll drive the critters up."


Walter let out a bawl that sounded just like a steer on the way to the slaughter-house. The attendants looked at each other and shook their heads. Walter had arrived.


(Based on reports 141 and 976)


"Graber, I understand some of these patients haven't been outdoors for months."

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