|Photo Essay of the Utah State Hospital (featured in Utah Historical Quarterly, Spring 2010, Volume 78, Number 2)|
|Written by Janina Chilton, Utah State Hospital Historian|
|Monday, 19 July 2010 14:03|
following photographs represent a brief visual history of the Utah
State Hospital beginning in 1885. Included are pictures that are at
times exemplary and at other times disturbing. The history portrayed in
these images parallels treatment in usage at institutions across
America. Even the architectural style of the buildings echoes the style
of other mental health institutions. Many of the photos have not been
seen for decades and most have never been published. They come from a
variety of sources but many were found in old cabinets or boxes in
forgotten closets during the demolition of buildings at the hospital.
Most were taken by unknown photographers, and few were dated. They are
rare portraits of some of Utah's forgotten citizens and of the
compassionate and exceptional people who provided care to those
There are many quality works for the reader desiring a detailed history of mental health treatment. A noteworthy history specific to Utah is Charles McKell's October 1955 Historical Quarterly article, “History of the Utah State Hospital. This essay is not intended as a comprehensive telling of the hospital's history, but is rather a glimpse into one of Utah's oldest and often misunderstood institutions.
It was likely that the need to care for mentally ill persons in Utah had existed since pioneers first came West in 1847. However, it was not until February 20, 1880 that an act to establish a Territorial Insane Asylum was passed by the Utah Territorial Legislature. In 1881, Provo was selected as the new site for the asylum. The site was selected due both to the ample supply of spring water and because it was located far from the center of town. In keeping with attitudes of the era, Provo City was protected from the asylum by both a swamp and the trash dump.
The original asylum building was dedicated on July 15, 1885 and five days later, the first patients were admitted. The asylum would become the primary care facility for those with a mental illness for the next eighty three years. In 1967, Utah's first community mental health center opened, gradually ten more would follow. Today, the Hospital is one part of the continuum of care for Utah's mentally ill citizens.
Over the years, additional buildings were added to accommodate the ever growing population. Each new building represented the best thinking of the time. Two cottages built in 1901 were a radical change from large wards and multi floors. Both were single wards designed to house thirty patients and consisted of only one floor. The Milton Hardy building, constructed in 1908 consisted of two floors and was most likely a compromise between the original building and the cottage plan.
By the time the George Hyde Memorial Building was competed in 1922 and the Frederick Dunn building in l932, multiple floors and large dorms were again back in vogue. The difference between the two buildings reflected the treatment philosophy around patients need for recreation. The Hyde Building contained a billiards room, one lane bowling alley and swimming pool. The Dunn building, completed during the depression contained no such amenities. Hospital buildings constructed in recent years reflect a patient's need for privacy and space. All of the wards provide one and two bed room dorms, a number of day rooms and open court yards. Beginning with the Milton Hardy building in 1908, each new building would be named after the superintendent in office at the time of construction. This practice would be discontinued in 1951 with the construction of the student nurses home.
By today's standards hydrotherapy may seem old fashioned and more like a restraint but at the time it was widely used in state hospitals as well as in general hospitals for other illnesses. It is that doubtful that hydrotherapy was ever in its self a cure; at best it was most effective as a sedative, tonic or as stimulation with only temporary benefits. The use of hydrotherapy was phased out with the advent of medications in the 1950's.
Today, ECT is still considered a viable and effective treatment for severe depression. New methods have made the procedure considerably safer and it is only used with patients consent.
By 1950, the list of treatment options at the Hospital had grown to include hypoglycemic therapy, electroshock therapy, hydrotherapy, psychoanalysis, group therapy and narcoanalysis (a form of psychotherapy in which barbiturates are used to put the patient into a light anesthesia to help them talk about events that might be suppressed). Although some of the early therapies seem ineffective when compared with current treatment options, they were considered a standard practice for state hospitals. When medications were developed in the 1950's that were considered safer and more effective than earlier treatment modalities, nearly all of the other forms of therapies were discontinued. Today, the hospital provides a broad array of therapeutic programs including recreation, vocational, rehabilitation and physical therapy.
Along with a discussion of early treatment modalities it is interesting to note the variety of reason that people were committed to the institution in the early years. Some of the more interesting ones were: reading novels, solar heat exposure, spiritualism, financial embarrassment, disappointment, mental strain, overwork, fear of poverty, religious excitement, fright, remorse, sedentary life, over study in school, hypnotism and sheep herder. By today's standards those are flimsy reasons for years of hospitalization.
The farm was an important part of the treatment program as well as the fiscal efficiency of the hospital. In the 1924 Biennial report, Dr. Frederick Dunn noted in his report on the progress of the farm, “That with more land added to our present holdings, this Institution will have made the long step toward self support”.  By the 1930's, the farm complex included hogs, chickens, turkeys, cattle, horses and an apiary. However, it was not until 1956, a professionally directed industrial therapy program was introduced that began to coordinate the labor needs of the hospital with the treatment needs of the patient. The farm program was phased out in the 1960's and nearly all of the original industrial programs have been discontinued. Today, the hospital no longer relies on patient labor; the mission of the hospital is to aid patients in life skills and to return them to their communities as soon as possible.
Patients were allowed one bath per-week; during the rest of the week they would wash in large sinks know as bird baths. Bathrooms also allowed little privacy and until the 1950's there were no toilet paper dispensers. Patients would be required to ask a staff member for toilet paper.
By the 1940's, wards had became so crowded that beds were placed in alcoves and ha1ls. In 1955, the hospital population peaked at 1,500 patients, which was nearly 200 over capacity. In 1957, the State Legislature doubled the funding for the hospital. With the extra funding and the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Owen P. Heninger, the hospital was divided into small treatment units each with its own treatment team. This allowed for individual treatment plans and more personal care.
When Dr. Heninger became the superintendent in 1942, he was determined to remove an area in the hospital known as the strong room. The strong room, erected in 1932, was built to house criminally insane men who were considered dangerous. The room consisted of four jail cells and the men who were placed in them were never let out. It took him eight years but in May, 1950, the cells were finally removed. Interestingly, the four men who were moved from these cells into the general hospital population never caused another problem.
Today, patients enjoy many community activities as well as campus recreation facilities. Recreation provided on campus include a modern library, gym, swimming pool, weight room, ropes course, fish pond and on ground camping facility. However, volunteers are still an integral and valued part of the recreational as well as religious programs available to patients
Gone are the large custodial intuitions of the past. The Hospital has moved from a custodial asylum to a hospital in every sense of the word. It is no longer the only mental health facility in the state, but rather serves a supporting role to a broad community mental health system Today, most people needing treatment for a mental illness will remain in their communities. Individuals needing more intensive treatment are referred to the hospital from one of eleven community mental health centers. The hospital currently employs 800 staff who provide a full array of services to 354 individuals including children ages 6-18; adults ages 18 and up and forensic patients committed through the Criminal Courts. However, as former Superintendent Dr. Owen P. Heninger noted in an evaluation report to the Welfare Commission in October, 1951 “It is a mistake to center our attention on either the good or bad to the exclusion of the other. The hospital record is neither black nor white; it is a mixture of both, which results in a variable shade of gray, that on occasions is lighter or darker, depending upon the will of the citizens and officials to who they gave responsibility. There may have been some excuse for the neglect of past years when society knew no better, but future generations will not be so generous in their evaluation unless advantage is taken of the knowledge now available”. 
The progress is not complete. The Hospital history is still being written.
1-Biennial Report of the Board of Directors and the Annual Report of the Superintendent and Treasurer of the Insane Asylum of Utah Territory-1888: 51. 2-Biennial Report of the Board of Directors and the Annual Report of the Superintendent and Treasurer of the Insane Asylum of Utah Territory-1886: 58-60.
3-Biennial Report of the Board of Directors and the Annual Report of the Superintendent and Treasurer of the Insane Asylum of Utah Territory-1888: 27.
4- Report of the Board of Trustees and the Superintendent of the Utah State Hospital: For the Biennial Period Ending June 30 1938: 31
5- Biennial Report of the Board of Directors and the Annual Report of the Superintendent and Treasurer of the Insane Asylum of Utah Territory-1888: 26.
6- Report of the State Board of Insanity and the Superintendent of the State Mental Hospital: For the Biennial Period Ending November 30, 1924: 7
7-Charles McKell, “The Utah State Hospital: A study in the Care of the Mentally Ill”, Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. XXIII (October, 1955): 323.
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|Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 July 2010 05:45|