A Case of Hysteria

Stories From The Sanatorium

Susan Kaysen and Frances Farmer’s memoirs are chilling testaments to how generations of female patients were institutionalized against their will and suffered dehumanizing treatment. In her posthumously published Will There Really Be a Morning? the well-known Hollywood actress Farmer describes her terror-filled stay at Western State Hospital in Washington, being raped by orderlies, besieged by rats, and given tainted food. Girl Interrupted details Kaysen’s experience in the 1960s in a psychiatric hospital, where she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and involuntarily committed for a year. Published in 1964, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden offers a more holistic view of mental health care. Author Joanne Greenberg, writing as Hannah Green, describes the trust that can form between a therapist and patient. To promote reflective approaches to treatment in the late 1980s, the California Department of Mental Health published a collection of artistic testimonies by mental health clients entitled People Say I’m Crazy. The Well-Being Project demonstrates how creative outlets can give voice to the voiceless during their time of crisis.

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