The Lives They Left Behind

The Lives They Left Behind

Suitcases From A State Hospital Attic

Book - 2008 | 1st ed.
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" The Lives They Left Behind is a deeply moving testament to the human side of mental illness, and of the narrow margin which so often separates the sane from the mad.  It is a remarkable portrait, too, of the life of a psychiatric asylum--the sort of community in which, for better and for worse, hundreds of thousands of people lived out their lives. Darby Penney and Peter Stastny's careful historical (almost archaeological) and biographical reconstructions give us unique insight into these lives which would otherwise be lost and, indeed, unimaginable to the rest of us."-- Oliver Sacks, M.D. , Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, Columbia University Artist, and author of Musicophilia


"The haunting thing about the suitcase owners is that it's so easy to identify with them."-- Newsweek


"In their poignant detail the items helped rescue these individuals from the dark sprawl of anonymity."-- The New York Times


"[The authors] spent 10 years piecing together . . . the lives these patients lived before they were nightmarishly stripped of their identities."-- Newsday


More than four hundred abandoned suitcases filled with patients' belongings were found when Willard Psychiatric Center closed in 1995 after 125 years of operation. They are skillfully examined here and compared to the written record to create a moving--and devastating--group portrait of twentieth-century American psychiatric care.

Publisher: New York : Bellevue Literary Press, 2008.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9781934137079
Branch Call Number: 362.21097471 P413
Characteristics: 205 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Additional Contributors: Stastny, Peter


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Apr 16, 2017

Not always an easy topic to read about, but it gives a good history in our changing thoughts on mental illness. Those housed at the upstate NY facility were often used as labor with no compensation. Some were more ill than others but some never had the circumstances of their prior considered in how that impacted there help. Some could have been helped if their root issues were discussed. Anyway, as a genealogy buff it was interesting.

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