article: ‘New psychiatric treatment center opening today’

The 16 August 2012 article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette entitled ‘New psychiatric treatment center opening today’ describes the first new psychiatric facility built in Massachusetts since the 1950s. The new building is located on the grounds of the Worcester State Hospital, built in the 1830s.

A couple SRV-relevant points:

• The article mentions that the new building will focus on “physical health and wellness” and promote “exercise, movement, nutrition, fresh air and access to sunlight.” I have not seen the new building so I cannot vouch for this, and it remains to be seen whether such a focus is actually implemented for anyone institutionalized there. Keep in mind also that this is still a segregated, congregated service. However,  it is interesting that this language is resonant with the history of the moral treatment movement, which was put into practice at the Worcester Asylum for a period of time. Note also that moral treatment was one of the topics which Dr. Wolfensberger taught about frequently, and which he cited as a forerunner of normalization and Social Role Valorization.

• From the article:

The hospital features all private rooms and freedom of movement from a patient’s room to a ‘neighborhood’ of other patients to a ‘downtown’ and ultimately to an outdoor ‘village green’ that takes advantage of perimeter security for the hospital.

In case it is not apparent, the ‘neighborhood’ and ‘downtown’ are physically inside the new building, and the ‘village green’ is miles from any actual village or downtown. From an SRV perspective, consider this in light of language as an image- and role-communicator. Does such language in a newspaper article reinforce any negative stereotypes about adults with mental disorder? What about when further considered in light of the phrases ‘perimeter security’ and ‘hospital’? How does such language and imagery shape the way that others will perceive and therefore likely treat adults with mental disorders? What ‘good things of life’ may then be seen as legitimate to deny or limit to adults with mental disorders? What kinds of language and practices would potentially be more role-valorizing?

By the way, such phrases as ‘neighborhood,’ ‘downtown’ and ‘village green’ are often also used by nursing homes, which points out the universality of some of these practices.

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  1. Written by Rachel Kleinfelter
    on October 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm
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    The fact that appropriate moral treatment was addressed is very important because I believe that this is one of the huge factors that leads to social devaluation. Because this new psychiatric treatment center is focusing on the “physical health and wellness” of its occupants is also important because in many previous institutions, the needs of the occupants were not addressed as adequately. When newspapers and people call these institutions “hospitals” it makes it seem like these occupants are there to be cured. That is not what these places are for at all. There is nothing to be cured, just a place where they most urgent and pressing needs can be met at all times in a proper way. When referring to these institutions as “hospitals,” the social image of the occupants is devalued and seem as if they are sick and are there as “patients.” The language of society leads to further devaluation of those individuals.

  2. […] Note also that moral treatment was one of the topics which Dr. Wolfensberger taught about frequently, and which he cited as a forerunner of normalization and Social Role Valorization. • From the article: The hospital features …  […]

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