100 Years of Psychiatric Patient Cultures and Icons in America

Austen Riggs Center

25 Main St
StockbridgeMassachusetts 01262
November 15, 2019 at 6:30 PM

Heather Murray, PhD, is an associate professor of history at the University of Ottawa. Her first book, Not In This Family: Gays, Their Parents, and the Meanings of Kinship in Postwar America (University of Pennsylvania, 2010), won the Organization of American Historians Lawrence Levine Prize for cultural history in 2011. She is completing her second book, Philosophical About the Mental Hospital, a cultural and intellectual history of care for the mentally ill in 20th-century America, focusing on hospital psychiatry, and uncovering the voices of patients, their family members, psychiatrists, and hospital communities. She has published articles in the Journal of the History of Sexuality, Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, and Journal of American Culture. She is a former Erikson Scholar at the Austen Riggs Center, has held a visiting fellowship at the University of Sydney, and received a number of research grants—including a SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) grant for her project on care of the mentally ill.

Talk Description: This talk explores psychiatric patients as producers of ideas and culture through an exploration of patient hospital publications, drawings, and introspective and personal writings. We will also explore broader cultural representations of psychiatric patients, in literary and film culture, anthropology and sociology, to analyze the kinds of patient icons that have emerged over time, from the patient deemed too sensitive for the modern world at mid-century, to the patient perceived as teetering on the edge of rebellion and violent dissent by the late twentieth century, to the patient ghost that has been created in paranormal cultures about abandoned asylums in the twenty-first century. How do these mythologies interact with patients’ own cultural outputs? And how and why have both patient culture and the lore about them changed over time? We will use examples from Riggs itself, along with an array of both state hospitals and private institutions to illuminate the psychiatric hospital as an imaginative space in which not solely patient captivity and resistance can unfold, but emotional intensities and unusual solidarities, and even unresolved yearnings for community life over the course of twentieth century America.

This presentation is designed for mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, and social workers, with no regular registration fee. View the entire schedule for the 2019-20 Friday Night Guest Lecture Series.


The Austen Riggs Center designates this live activity for a maximum of 1.00 AMA PRA Category1 Credit(s) ™

The Austen Riggs Center also designates this live activity for 1.00 continuing education credit(s) (CE) for psychology and social work.

The program on 11/15/19 meets the requirements of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing at 244 CMR 5.00 for 1.0 contact hour(s).

The Austen Riggs Center, #1344, is approved as a provider for social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) www.aswb.org, through the Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Austen Riggs Center maintains responsibility for the program. ASWB Approval Period: 02/02/2017-02/02/2020. Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval for continuing education credits. Social workers participating in this course will receive 1.0 continuing education clock hours. Social workers should contact their regulatory board to determine course approval for continuing education credits.

For a listing of jurisdictions that accept ACE, please visit www.aswb.org/ace/ace-jurisdiction-map/.

Complete Continuing Education Statement

No registration required. For more information contact Kathleen Young at 413.931.5230. 

In the event of a cancellation due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances, a notice will be posted here no later than 3:00 p.m. on the day of the event.