Willard State Hospital

If you want to view a pretty amazing historical art project online, check out The Willard Suitcase Exhibit Online. Willard Psychiatric Center in New York opened as the Willard Asylum in 1869 and after being renamed in 1890 …

3 Comments to
The Willard Suitcase Exhibit Online

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  1. It’s good to see this being made into an online exhibit, so more people have access to it. When I first read of it opening for public viewing in a New York City venue last December, I was a little taken aback at how little it took for some people to be locked away for life in that facility. Though I know of many atrocities and abuses that have taken place in the name of psychiatric treatment over the decades, it was still a little surprising to see how easily people could be locked away for life with no right of appeal, and few if any rights of any other kind, either. I think I remember reading of someone who was locked away there (at Willard)just for going through a fairly normal grieving process.

    Nowadays there seem to be some individuals and groups who long for a return to the days when this kind of thing was widespread. It would be nice if the advocates of “assisted” (aka forced) treatment would be more forthright about the abuses of the past such as this. Perhaps then it would be harder for them to justify lobbying so eagerly for legislation making this type of thing more likely to happen again in the future.

  2. In doing some family genealogy I have found that an aunt, Mildred Calhoun O’Connor, was a patient at Willard Psychiatric Center. I have been unable to get information as to her death or burial site. I am now curious to know if possibly one of the suitcases could be hers. How do I go about finding out if, in fact, one of them would be hers? I have asked family members about her and why she was a patient there and was advised her husband admitted her and walked away. She was diagnosed as “incompetent” – whatever that means!!!

  3. 1/8/2009 thurs. i got some free mental health care through social services in the late 1970′s at the psychiatric center…i wonder how to get in contact with the group[behavioral program 1980 chris lynch,dr.saati] kathleen mchale geneva ny

  4. My name is Tom and I worked at Willard Psy. from 1970 to 1995 when they closed it to turn it into a prison. It disturbs me that so much neg. material is written and viewed about the history of care in the mental health system. Yes it is true that in the very early years(1900 through 1960s)people were put into state hospitals, a lot of them were mistreated and not much care was given. But Willard was unlike any other State Psy.Center in that; no.1 it was in a very nice, peace full setting in the country 200 feet off the Seneca Lake shore line. And no.2 close to half the employees I worked with were the second and third generation (my grandmother, mother, and two aunts worked there with me and before me) of their families to work there. I remember my mother bringing a little old lady from her building to our home around 1966. Mom told me she always talks about how she used to love to clean and putter around her house, but she can’t do the at the hospital. I told her she could come to our house and putter. It’s a shame that much isn’t written of how Willard was a leader in moving into the modern age of treating people with mental problems. I was a member of one of the first community based day treatment programs teams -in 1972! Willard was ranked as the second best Hospital when the state closed it – to turn it into a prison! Yes we needed to move away from institutions, but to close what was maybe the best hospital in NYS so early, for strictly political reasons is typical of the way the state shows how much they really cared about the people we served.

  5. excellent writing .

  6. I was reviewing the articles about Willard Mental Hospital.

    I was priveleged to have known and worked with one of the patients known as Dymetro after the facility closed.

    I was interviewed just the year after his death from two people from Albany NY
    Unfortunately little of that was included?

    I was listening to the recollections of the nurses who cared for the patients at Willard and one comment was that Dymetro was always sad.

    Im happy to report that a mural he painted in our home was a happy and joyful one and is still there today 2011 in our home.

    Dymetro was my friend. We cared for him while he was with us and he is still missed.

    The collections of the peices of peoples lives are amazing. Let us remember them, and in tribute improve our ways.

    Most Sincerely,
    Teresa Monroe 2011

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