“Words once spoken never die” ~ Traditional African proverb
During its years in existence, the Northampton State Hospital was somewhat of an enigma for the residents of Northampton. The hospital “overlooked the town” as a beautiful, but somewhat ominous presence. Few people knew what actually went on the hospital, and because the hospital is now gone, it is likely that virtually no one will remember the hospital, its inhabitants, or its staff.
While the hospital's last patients have long since been released and staff relieved of their duties, their firsthand accounts still exist. They have been recorded as part of projects, in op-eds, and in other ways as well. Included here is a compilation of quotations from former patients and staff of the Northampton State Hospital , as well as Northampton community members. Their stories range from the lighthearted to the melancholy to the downright horrifying.It is our hope that by preserving these stories, we can memorialize the hospital and alll those it affected. Check back frequently for new quotes and stores!
Annaka Paradis, '18
Compiled by Annaka Paradis, '18
“MONUMENTTOHUMANMISERY” – From the article Ghost Town by Maureen Turner
“A mental health ghetto”-- graffiti found in downtown Northampton after deinstitutionalization
“It has been barely possible at times during the past year to procure respectable persons enough to do absolutely necessary work in caring for patients and safeguarding against danger.” Grob, 1983
“We have to take this gem and mine it properly” – Bruce Fogel, Citizen’s Advisory Committee
“The blemish of the world’s emotional wound”- Anna Schueit, referring to the Northampton State Hospital
From/ About Patients
“As a result of this constantly increasing growth in numbers, we have been seriously handicapped in the care of our patients.”- Annual Report 1922
“Play ‘Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is dead.’ Don’t play the Magnificat. If you want to call this an art piece, I reserve the right to not like your art.” Rebecca Macauley, on Anna Schuleit’s sound installation
“Their memory is lost”—David Parnell, artist and former employee of a mental health agency. His aunt was a patient in a hospital.
“It’s good to come back and feel okay.”-- Jeanne Ingle, former patient of the Northampton State Hospital, referring to Schuleit’s installation.
“It was a terrible place. I’m glad they’re getting rid of it. I like the music. I feel it’s for all of them. They should be remembered.” Elderly woman whose sister was a patient, in response to Schuleit’s installation.
“I was just going to be there overnight. I stayed a month. I think I was lucky. We were in the more hopeful part, the temporary part.”- Jeanne Ingle, former patient
“She needs to be remembered. They all have to be remembered. There are 10,000 people who cannot speak out because they are dead or they didn’t make it this far.” – “Megan”, a 21 year old patient who had been hospitalized elsewhere because of a nervous breakdown. Referring to patients who died or killed themselves to escape institutionalization.
“Horror stories”—unidentified woman who spoke at symposium
"Staff goaded patients into fights as form of 'entertainment'”—Phillip Lorraine, former patient
“Some sort of hell” - former female patient
“There ought to be some sort of appropriate memorial”—DMH director of planning Kerry Holland
“No one else remembers them. But we will” – Rebecca Macauley
“They were humiliated and abandoned n life. The very least we can do is make sure these people get the dignity in death that they never got in life”—Pat Deegan, ex-patient and activist
“Nightmare”—Jane Moser, mother of David Moser
“Even with “diseased brains,” we can still have normal emotions and thoughts floating around in there somewhere.” –Rebecca Macualey
“Society is very closed, very cold.”—Jamie Wilder, mental health patient (not in NHS)
“I don’t like to see people put down because of mental illness. People need to give people with mental illness a chance.” Kim Johnson, suffered from depression not NHS
The need to forget suffering is understandable, but wrong. – paraphrased from Mark Roessler, chair of the Museum Committee of Save Old Main
“This would be like saving Auschwitz...” –Rebecca Macauley, referring to saving the old main building
“Even the best treatments for and most progressive ideas about the mentally ill could only be described as generally inhumane.” – Sanford Bloomberg, former physician at Northampton State Hospital
A place “which few people wanted, and ever fewer expected to ever leave.” – Sanford Bloomberg
“For all his unhappiness with the lack of human and rehabilitative treatment within the asylum, he could not... conceive of another system.” – Clifford Beers, former asylum inmate (not NSH)
“Conditions at the Northampton State Hospital are not suitable for long term patient care... physically, the [hospital] is deplorable... treatment can’t go on here...”- Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of Public Inpatient Mental Health Services, 1980.
“How do you answer people who ask ‘why am I here?’ What do you say?” Robert Mielke, former hospital treasurer, referring to patients who were erroneously admitted
“I felt, as I saw the patients, that some didn’t need to be in the hospital. Some needed to be in nursing homes.. The older ones—they didn’t have the family to take care of them. They aged there, and they didn’t know anything but institutional life.”- Shirley Gallup, former hospital psychiatrist.
“Placed in constant contact with their patients, and having unrestricted intercourse with them [the staff’s] influence is for good or evil” – Annual Report, 1858
“Way back then, it was a real family.”—George Button, former director of rehabilitation, referring to the hospital’s policy of hiring extended family members
“There were a lot of very large family groups... some of them were so large that if you really got to shooting your mouth of... you had to be real careful... You very fast learned to be pretty careful.”—Katy Duffus, former nurse referring to paternalism
“It was like campus living. The only thing was, it wasn’t college. We had loads of fun”-- Lillian Mielke, former attendant
“Here’s a person who’s psychotic, really confused, and the staff would play mind games with him.”- Mary Garret, referring to her son, who was a patient at the Northampton State Hospital
“It’s all about power and control.”—Rebecca Macauley
“It was a very dangerous situation because of the shortage of psychiatrists....” Shriley Gallup
" ...There’s many an employee that I hired that was a drunk and I knew he was a drunk.” Florence “Pearl” Eaton, referring to the perpetual shortage of qualified staff at Northampton State
“It was a harsh life. It was protected, but it was a harsh life.”—Katy Duffus
“I had one who was tied in bed all the time”—Claude Hill, former hospital employee
“It was very difficult to prepare for...the violence that happens on the wards... There was absolutely no training for that. It was kind of on-the-job training, and you did whatever you could to get through...” – Mary Quinn, former hospital attendant
"The system infantilized the patients more than they needed to be.”—Dr. Jeffrey Geller, former hospital employee