FAITH + MENTAL HEALTH
PIX: At Foxboro State Hospital in Massachusetts, the top number is the patient ID, the bottom the grave site numberWayne writes imploring that behavioral psyche students learn about religious freedom
The event that prompted his writing was an annual memorial event that takes place at the old CVH cemetary in Middletown where patients used to be buried | They were interred without any identification, a practice typical of many "hospitals for the insane," St Elizabeth's Hospital
in Washington DC among them | At CVH efforts have been made to amend for this final injustice, by given those buried a belated recognition |
An online article at Insight
......Connecticut Valley State Hospital in Middletown, Conn., established in 1868, ...buried ...patients in its cemetery, where identities are known simply by the number on the gravestone. Garrell Mullaney, chief executive officer of the hospital, says that "this was a common practice for state hospitals back then. It was felt that the families of these left behind might suffer some indignity that their relative was mentally ill. So these families basically buried them anonymously. Today we would protect their names under the rubric of confidentiality. But back then it was a common practice to number graves. There was a stigma associated with having a relative in a mental institution."
"We take care of the cemetery," explains Mullaney, "but we don't have a historian to go back and find out the cause of death. The list of the people who are buried here, through 1933, can be found right here in the local library. Today we're naming these graves on a directory. We're putting it in the cemetery on a 4-by-8 foot granite stone, which will have the names and marker numbers of all of the patients. Three hundred to 400 names will be engraved on this every year, and it will take a couple of years to get it done. We didn't think these people should remain anonymous, and we made our argument that there already was a record of the people buried in the cemetery at the local library."
Unlike St. Elizabeths, Connecticut Valley apparently kept sufficient records in order to identify the plot of each of the patients buried in the Middletown cemetery.
Recognition and respect for the dead doesn't come easy, however | In a field with 1,147 other graves, this rusted steel post marks the resting place of a patient/inmate from Worcester State Hospital, buried there in 1988 | Judy Robbins, ex-patient and activist says of this on the National Empowerment Center's website "Do we deserve less respect than animals? We have a vision. We see the cemeteries both as sacred ground and sanctuaries for both the living and the dead. We see places of Peace and Beauty. We see proper memorials, a quiet fountain, and the sound of birds.
This latter-day acknowledgement of the personhood of souls confined to insane asylums is important but still doesn't speak to Wayne's concern; namely that clinicians are reluctant, perhaps even unwilling to recognize the spiritual connection that people have while confined to such places |
Spirituality, and the system's acknolwedgement of individual religious beliefs has to happen if such places are to even come close to being "places of refuge" | In Connecticut, state law asserts that prayer itself can be a "treatment modality" | Indeed, it seems that recognition of one's faith should be a pivotal component to consider when assessing one's needs when entering a mental hospital |
When I work, there are Muslims, 7th Day Adventists, nominal Roman Cathotics, a man who seeks to practice Native American traditions [like the smudging ceremony
] and people who profess no religious beliefs at all |
In contrast, clinical practitioners learn from places such as the DSM IV-R
[Diagnostic + Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders] and in classes about "religious ideation
" in psychotic thinking | And while personally I wouldn't rule such a phenomenon out [as contrasted with a person's articles of faith], I know from observation that, all too frequently an individual's religious beliefs get dismissed as tangential if not irrelevant to having mental problems |
I may be wrong but I suspect it is that lack of distinction that Wayne has concerns about |
Returning to the opening topic of this post, namely how the dead are put to the grave, without knowing what a patient's beliefs are regarding spirituality, then when one dies, the staff lack the knowledge of how to send one off with providing proper respect to the person who is being laid to rest | And that, too, would be wrong |