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Mental Health and Canadian Society

Mental Health and Canadian Society: Historical Perspectives

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  • Book Info
    Mental Health and Canadian Society
    Book Description:

    In Mental Health and Canadian Society leading researchers challenge generalisations about the mentally ill and the history of mental health in Canada. Considering the period from colonialism to the present, they examine such issues as the rise of the insanity plea, the Victorian asylum as a tourist attraction, the treatment of First Nations people in western mental hospitals, and post-World War II psychiatric research into LSD.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7654-4
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables, Figures, and Map
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    Public stereotypes and private myths about mental disorders run deep in Canadian society. We feel a revulsion and sympathy towards mental illness and its treatment in equal measure. From the Victorian backdrop to Margaret Atwood’sAlias Grace¹to Timothy Findlay’s post-warHeadhunter,² the mental hospital and the practice of psychiatry act as a fictional repository for our darkest fears. Such ambivalent and contradictory attitudes are further shaped by and reflected in popular representations in visual media, such as the gothic depiction of schizophrenia in David Cronenberg’s thrillerSpideror the more sympathetic portrayal of psychosis in the 2001 American Oscar...

  7. 1 “Open to the Public”: Touring Ontario Asylums in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 19-48)

    In the 1880s E. Katharine Bates embarked on a transatlantic tour of North America, visiting such cities as Montreal, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington. While in Toronto for a few days, she included in her sightseeing itinerary the law courts of Osgoode Hall, the University of Toronto, Rosedale Park, and the insane asylum on Queen Street.¹ A few years earlier, Thomas Dick, a young farmer living outside the city, came to Toronto for a visit on the occasion of the national exhibition and chose to spend his time seeing not only the Central Prison but the asylum grounds as...

  8. 2 “For Years We Have Never Had a Happy Home”: Madness and Families in Nineteenth-Century Montreal
    (pp. 49-68)

    During the transition to industrial capitalism in the nineteenth century, many families were forced to make important decisions at one point or another in their history. To emigrate, to take advantage of professional opportunities, to find satisfactory residential accommodation, to adapt to changing demographic behaviour – these were only some of the areas where a family’s capacity to choose, and hence to influence its future, was put to the test. Families that lived in Montreal had to come to terms with a difficult environment, one that included insufficient income for many of them, economic crises that affected commercial and industrial activity,...

  9. 3 Patients at Work: Insane Asylum Inmates’ Labour in Ontario, 1841–1900
    (pp. 69-96)

    In 1879 the provincial inspector of insane asylums for the province of Ontario, John W. Langmuir, wrote that to “implant and cultivate in that class of patients a taste for work … is of infinitely greater importance, than any other portion of Asylum work and supervision.”¹ When he made this statement, Langmuir was laying the groundwork for the intensification of patient labour, which would see an increase in the rate of patient labour at Ontario’s mental institutions from one-third in the late 1870s to 75 percent of the entire inmate population by 1900.² The motives that influenced this policy were...

  10. 4 The Uses of Asylums: Resistance, Asylum Propaganda, and Institutionalization Strategies in Turn-of-the-Century Quebec
    (pp. 97-116)

    In 1824 the report of a special committee commissioned by the government of Lower Canada to investigate (among other things) institutions responsible for caring for people with a deranged mind very clearly set out the new role the government planned to adopt with regard to the mentally ill. The report stressed: “It is almost impossible in private families with a mentally deranged member to provide the supervision his condition requires, for his own sake and for the well-being of the family and society in general. It therefore is necessary in almost every case to remove him from the home.”¹ This...

  11. 5 “Loaded Revolvers”: Ontario’s First Forensic Psychiatrists
    (pp. 117-148)

    In November 1869 Joseph Workman, the medical superintendent of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum in Toronto, Ontario, explained to members of the Canadian Institute his views on the position of medical witnesses in court. The medical expert, he bragged, “is a loaded revolver, very dangerous to be toyed with, and still more so to be roughly handled ... [lawyers] can not tell on which side it may kill; and here, and here only, lies the safety of our profession in the witness box.”¹ Yet less than a decade after his exultant speech, he lamented that “we have in Canada, arrived at...

  12. 6 Turbulent Spirits: Aboriginal Patients in the British Columbia Psychiatric System, 1879–1950
    (pp. 149-175)

    In the late fall of 1941, sixty-two-year-old Charley Wolverine,¹ a member of the Dakelh (formerly Carrier) First Nation of west-central British Columbia, was becoming increasingly erratic and confused. He had been wandering aimlessly around his home reserve at night for several weeks when the village chief at last decided to summon the local British Columbia Provincial Police (BCPP) constable. The latter promptly jailed Charley and called in two white general physicians from a nearby town. Although Charley was deaf, non-English-speaking, disoriented, and nearly blind, the two medical men quickly determined that he was an insanity case who needed immediate institutionalization....

  13. 7 “Prescription for Survival”: Brock Chisholm, Sterilization, and Mental Health in the Cold War Era
    (pp. 176-192)

    Few Canadians in the twentieth century enjoyed the international eminence of psychiatrist Brock Chisholm (1896–1971). Chisholm was Canada’s deputy minister of health during World War II and the first director-general of the World Health Organization (1948–53). Throughout the early decades of the Cold War, he spoke out repeatedly on a wide range of social, political, economic, and cultural issues, one of those rare public figures whose opinions were heeded by influential policy-makers the world over. In his many utterances on matters of public health, Chisholm consistently gave the impression that he was urging novel solutions to pressing problems...

  14. 8 Social Disintegration, Problem Pregnancies, Civilian Disasters: Psychiatric Research in Nova Scotia in the 1950s
    (pp. 193-220)

    During the era of rapid social change in Canada that followed the end of World War II, interest in exploring the intricacies of the human mind rose in prominence in the nation’s research agenda. Even Maritime Canadians, who often felt themselves at a disadvantage compared to central Canadians, found that new federal programs, talented researchers, and participation in national initiatives opened up new opportunities for research. Mental health research in Nova Scotia during the 1950s concentrated on the social environment. Psychiatric and psychological projects adopted social science approaches to address accessible neurotic conditions rather than unfathomable psychotic disorders at a...

  15. 9 Prairie Psychedelics: Mental Health Research in Saskatchewan, 1951–1967
    (pp. 221-244)

    In the early 1950s a group of clinical researchers in Saskatchewan began making waves in psychiatry for medical experimentation with psychedelic drugs.² Psychiatrists Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer had found that hallucinogenic drugs such as d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), among others, produced powerful “mind-manifesting” or psychedelic experiences, which they believed provided insight into the biochemical functions of the human mind. One aspect of their studies suggested that the chemically induced experiences simulated disorders such as schizophrenia by producing a “model psychosis.” Another dimension of the LSD studies explored the drugs’ ability to create a spiritual or transcendental experience with therapeutic...

  16. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 245-254)
  17. Index
    (pp. 255-266)