Library Collections: Document: Full Text

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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Miss Whitmore smiled. Mr. Allman was a good-hearted old fellow who would do almost anything for his patients. He always had some new idea. And after all, why couldn't patients be used to do needed jobs for which they were qualified? The hospital had them shoveling coal, cleaning stables, farming, and doing all sorts of unskilled work, whether they wanted to or not. Miss Whitmore knew that a former church organist spent every day peeling vegetables in the scullery.


"Mr. Allman," she said, "maybe you've got an idea there. At least I'll speak to Miss Roaeman about it."


Unfortunately, Miss Roseman, director of occupational therapy, chose to regard the suggestion as a criticism of her department. She suggested that if Miss Whitmore would pay a little more attention to her nursing, and worry less about occupations for the patients, everyone might be a little happier.


Miss Whitmore could think of at least four people who wouldn't be any happier -- Mr. Allman, Roy Smith, Abe Jones, and the organist -- but she knew that keeping your nose strictly in your own business was considered good hospital practice. So the next morning she told Mr. Allman, "Sorry, but it seems that doing what needs to be done isn't in the current definition of occupational therapy. You'll have to keep the boys idle and let the ward go to pot for want of repairs."


(Based on reports 1035 and 1066)




"The fact that physical illness and mental illness are in many instances so closely related means that good nutrition plays an important part in. the treatment and rehabilitation of the mentally ill."


Chief Dietitian,
Ohio State Department of Welfare.


In December, 1945, an analysis of the diet served in a large state mental hospital in the center of the midwestern corn belt showed daily food intake to be 1,881.21 calories per person. At the same time, a little farther north, participants in a starvation diet experiment were continuing to lose weight on a daily food intake of 2,000 calories. And a report of the National Research Council listed the minimum food requirement for an institutional dietary program at 2800 calories per person per day. In other words, healthy young men were starving on 6% more food than was being fed to the patients in a state mental hospital, and the state was providing only 67% of the recommended "minimum food requirement."


(Based on reports 1242 and 2022)


Promptly at ten o'clock every morning, food for over four thousand patients is taken out of the huge vats and ovens in the central kitchen and loaded on poorly insulated food trucks. Four hours later the trucks return with empty containers. What happens to that food in the four-hour interim is of no concern to the dietitian who plans the menus, hires the cooks, supervises the preparation -- and draws a comfortable salary. But you sometimes wonder if she wouldn't be disturbed if she knew what happened.


Take those ten trucks laden with food for a thousand, for instance, which are heading for the Hilltop House. Each truck has six two-and-a-half-gallon containers on top and two eighteen-gallon tubs underneath. Two trucks contain vegetable-barley soup; four contain beef stew made with beef, carrots, onions, and potatoes; one carries cole slaw; one vanilla custard; one bread; the tenth is empty, but goes along for the ride because it usually takes ten trucks to carry the Hilltop food.


The trucks are wheeled down a ramp to a sub-basement, and loaded onto an underground cable car. The half-mile climb to Hilltop is accomplished in ten minutes. The trucks are wheeled into the huge dining room one at a time, the others being left unattended. Roaches, rats and sometimes curious maintenance men investigate "what's for dinner today."


When all the trucks are in the dining room, a worker patient unloads them, setting each container on the floor. He puts two of the smaller containers of soup and four of the stew aside for the worker patients. Then he scoops most of the meat and vegetables out of two larger containers of stew, adding his gleanings to the stew he has set aside for the worker patients. Believing that the soup won't go around, he rune a bucket of water from the tap and adds a few quarts to each container. He stretches the stew in similar fashion. Then he makes up the trucks for serving, with two containers of soup, three of stew, and one of pudding in each truck. The larger containers remain uncovered on the floor.


Soon another patient comes, takes the bread and distributes a stack to each table. A spoon and cup are already at each place, having been put there immediately after breakfast. Returning, he asks, "What about the cole slaw?" He is told to "put it on the table." So he picks up a container and walks among the tables, leaving a little heap of cole slaw in the center of each. Later another patient comes out from a side room with metal pitchers of tea and sets one on each table. Several of them leak.


About eleven-fifteen, a disturbance is heard outside the door, and a moment later, four hundred and fifty men burst in the door and run for their seats. Attendants and worker-patients take a food truck and go between the tables, filling soup bowls and dropping them on the tables. Returning, plates of stew are served. One more trip to serve custard, and then all dishes are collected on the return. Each attendant serves a hundred and thirty to two hundred patients, with the help of two worker-patients. Nevertheless, the dining room is emptied in thirty minutes.

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