Before entering the field of psychology in the 1970s, I worked as a psychiatric nurse, gravitating to the community mental health movement, and then to anti-psychiatry politics. As a nurse at a psychiatric hospital in Santa Monica, also involved in union organizing and direct action politics with a feminist health collective, I was drawn to the radical wing of community mental health. Decades later, in producing a documentary film on the stories of people who entered the state psychiatric hospital in Oregon under the insanity plea, I had the chance to look back on that era through the lens of a fiction film that had made this hospital so famous.
My documentary, titled Guilty Except for Insanity, begins with a return to the same institution — the Oregon State Hospital — where One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was shot. The documentary opens with footage of that film and a narration explaining that our story is as much about the need for connection and care as it is about human struggles for freedom from confinement. As a project that began with a class that I teach on Gender and Madness, the documentary looks at the history of the asylum through a decidedly feminist lens — an approach that challenges some of the masculinist assumptions of the radical psychiatry movement.
The radical movement has deep roots in Eugene, Oregon, hometown of Ken Kesey and organizational base of MindFreedom — a dynamic organization that has played in important role in mental health activism in the Pacific Northwest. An anthem to the Merry Pranksters and road rebels of the 1960s, part of the West Coast counter-culture scene, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest celebrates the romantic impulses of the period. Published in 1962 and made into a film in 1975, Ken Kesey’s tale of the asylum secured a lasting place in the social imaginary. His vision of institutional confinement registered the anti-authoritarian ethos of the era, but Kesey was particularly attuned to psychological currents in American manhood.
The crisis of the story unfolds as McMurphy, who maneuvered to get into the state hospital to escape jail time, discovers that most of his fellow patients entered the facility voluntarily. Under the control of the repressed and repressive Nurse Ratched, the men on the ward choose to stay even when given the chance to leave. Chief, a Native American hospitalized for catatonia who emerges as the sentient ally of the rebellious McMurphy, emancipates himself from the control of Nurse Ratched at the film’s conclusion. After the lobotomized McMurphy is wheeled onto the ward, mentally castrated for orchestrating a rebellion, Chief performs a mercy killing by smothering the tragic hero. Gathering up the strength within his massive frame, he then extracts a hydrotherapy machine from its plumbing fixtures and hurls it through a barred window of the day room. In the final scene, Chief jumps through the window casing and runs toward the Oregon hills, with a glorious sunrise over the Cascades signaling the dawn of a new era.
This allegorical tale concludes with the liberation of the one Good Man (the silently watchful Native American) from the pernicious control of the (maternal) asylum. The onus of social control falls on the lap of nurse Ratched, the spoiler to the merry prankster hit-the-road philosophy. With this ethos of freedom as liberation from domestic constraints, the film forecloses the question of where those who escape institutional confinement, including indigenous people who end up on the streets, go when they escape the powerful institutional mother.
Throughout the history of patriarchal societies, care for dependent members of society falls largely to women. Throughout this same history, rebellious women were often spirited away to asylums, often by men disciplining their defiant daughters or wives. But women also suffer the burden of caring for family members whose needs fall below the register of the social “safety net.” Even the concept of the safety net suggests a norm of erect citizens who may periodically stumble and fall, requiring provisional holding until they get back on their feet. An element of the 1960s and ’70s anti-psychiatry critique, which we take up in Guilty Except for Insanity, centered on how the safety net readily transmogrified into a steel trap through the controlling interventions of the state.
The anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s and ’70s flourished as part of broader resistances to authority and the state. David Cooper coined the term antipsychiatry in orienting radical politics and revolutionary change in his critique of institutional psychiatry, and in calling for therapeutic communities run as collectives. Many psychiatrists were part of radical politics and protest movements of this era, as were mental health workers from allied fields. Building community mental health centers grew from a radical vision that went beyond paternalistic care of the mentally ill or liberal tolerance. Rather, it was based on genuine appreciation for odd behavior, and for the insights that accompany delusional thinking. The conception of the schizophrenic as a folk hero, a rebel in open revolt against the reality principle, certainly contained romantic blindspots. The actual mental torment and social alienation of people who suffer symptoms of psychosis could easily be downplayed in this heroic casting of their positions as misfit.
In undertaking Guilty Except for Insanity, we were particularly interested in working with this subtext of Cuckoo’s Nest — the representation of the state hospital as both sanctuary from a threatening external world and as site of coercive confinement. Unlike the prison, the “psychiatric gaze” of the asylum penetrates the internal world of the inmate, operating up close. Our film project began from the premise that the social control models that inform much of the antipsychiatry movement overlook a range of needs related to care, as well as progressive currents in the changing terrain of Western psychiatry. The power of psychiatry may be in its license to dispense opiate to the masses. But this dispensing is a response to real human distress.
Through the documentary, we wanted to create an antidote to the steady stream of highly sensationalized horror stories about crime and madness. Reality TV programs like America’s Most Wanted focus on stereotypes of deranged psychopaths and serial killers. News stories, in both print and visual media, offer lurid tales of those who escape mental institutions. Film depictions are no less sensationalized. Mainstream films such as American Psycho, Taxi Driver, Natural Born Killers and Silence of the Lambs perpetuate public anxieties over psychopathic killers stalking the country. More progressive accounts focus on the wretched conditions of institutions housing the criminally insane, but veer toward the gothic and stereotypical. The classic Fredrick Weisman film, Titicut Follies, remains the only feature-length documentary on an institution for the criminally insane, and an important historical reference point for Guilty Except for Insanity. But the relentless bleakness of the film evokes the sadism of the institution, with staff portrayed as willing accomplices. Recent specials by Frontline on criminal insanity and the treatment of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system similarly offer limited portraits of both inmates and the staff who work in these institutions.
We wanted to subvert these conventional images of madness, with their alternating portraits of monsters and folk heroes, bringing the humanity and hopes of forensic patients into view, and focusing on the “criminally insane” manner in which American society treats those who suffer a mental health crisis. Guilty Except for Insanity counters sensationalized accounts of the “criminally insane,” showing how patients who enter the hospital through the insanity plea are not so different from everyday people. Woven through the interview segments and shots of key junctures in patients’ journeys in and out of the hospital are songs produced by patients and staff, as well as art, text, and graphics that bring a vibrant ethnographic feel to the documentary.
The documentary also offers a unique glimpse into the lives of OSH patients and staff caught in a system that reflects larger national trends toward incarceration of people suffering mental health crises. Over a period of eighteen months, the film follows individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds who enlist the insanity plea after being charged with serious crimes. Their tales recount the tragic yet often inspiring sagas of men and women whose lives had spun out of control, and of the consequences of their encounters with the criminal justice system. Through the insanity defense, the state steps in with a heavy boot, offering deliverance from criminal responsibility but exacting a terrible price.
Most patients serve far longer terms in the OSH than they would have served had they gone to prison. And the stigma they bear remains far longer than the terms of their incarceration. The documentary portrays the deeply human dilemmas behind public stereotypes of the criminally insane, and exposes the complex and varied sources of the insanity that overtakes their lives. Through the documentary, my team seeks to unravel what has gone wrong since the 1970s de-institutionalization movement, understand why the criminal justice system has devoured the community mental health system, and probe the basis of anxieties concerning reintegration of incarcerated patients.
Some subjects in Guilty Except for Insanity have described the documentary as therapeutic. For people who have been extremely marginalized or approached as a bundle of clinical symptoms, the experience of seeing themselves positioned as thoughtful, as carrying important insights on the human condition, can be a powerful experience. Yet to the extent that a picture “tells a thousand words,” documentaries can be seductive in seeming to offer a window onto a hidden world. The accessibility of the images, seeing real people in real places, can seem to bypass the need for analysis of the stories that unfold. But documentaries depend on the critical engagement of audiences and activists, not simply to pan or applaud the production but to think through critical questions in transforming the world, in imagining that a better world is indeed possible.
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Trailer for “Guilty Except for Insanity: Maddening Journeys Through an Asylum“
Interview with Dean Brooks, Superintendent of Oregon State Hospital, where
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was filmed, with his eager cooperation.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Thanks Jan for such an awesome post.
My name is Sarah Blair
My Grandmother was Cherokee Indian.
She was locked up in the Oregon State Hospital. This caused me much distress at 4 years old. I’m still trying to remember what happened to her and me. Because, you see, my family did the same thing to me. They abused me until they could have me locked up. Then, my children were taken away after a long painfull battle with Children Services Division.
She was a Lovely woman. She was not a Criminal.
I know of the Guild Which You Speak Of. If not for this guild, I wold not be alive today. Thank You For Being an Angel in a Dark Place.
I grew up at 366 Jonquil St.
I Danced to Pretty Woman with Ken. You know him too.
Thank You for everything you have done for human rights in your live.
God Bless the Humble souls who’s lives were taken in Vanport, Oregon. ~Sarah Blair
Jan: the state hospital where I was detained in West Virginia was variously known in my life time as Weston State Hospital and Weston Hospital. It was closed down circa 1994 and was bought by a private entity, who reversed its name to the pre-Civil War era Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. At the time, a group of mental health providers launched a protest along with a consumer group, as best as I can tell. I kind of took it as what’s in a name. The Asylum which housed up to 3,000 in the 1950s, grew most of its food on the grounds, which is now used for mud bogging. There is a Bedlam Ball every Halloween, and tours are given daily. A local travel agency here in Charleston runs a bus special for the event. The Asylum is 100 miles to the north of where I live.
So one summer day five years ago,when we got back from a vacation in Branson, I decided to take the rental car for one final spin and check it out. I stopped in the town for cheap lunch of hotdogs and beer and then headed on over for the afternoon tour. I arrived, parked the car, and I went and paid for the full tour. During the tour on the lower floor, we saw the tour of the superintendent’s office, the kitchen, and the auditorium. The fact that you could not see the faces of the “patients'” on walls struck me as really erie (sic). The tour guide, a former worker at the facility, took great pains to denigrate the inmates at every turn. At one point she asked nervously if what I was writing down was going to get her into trouble. There were a couple of families with children in the group, and I don’t remember anyone having a lurid interest in the matter. When we finished the downstairs tour I was the only one signed up for the upstairs tour, so the tour guide and I headed up to the wards. She especially emphasized how dreadful were the occupants of Ward F were: basically the worst of the worst. Incidentally, this was where I resided: all very surreal. For what it is worth, there was a separate forensic unit that we did not visit.
Speaking of spirited women, I will be in Pratt tomorrow where Mother Jones was imprisoned in a one room house for her role in support of the Paint Creek Coal Miners strike of 1912.
When were you locked up in bedlam?
Served a 30 days to life sentence. Got out in 30 by concealing suicidal ideation.
I’m sorry that you suffered there.
I used to live in Norfolk, Virgina Beach, and Portsmouth. Virginia is a very old place. It’s creepy.
I had night terrors for a long time when I was taking Risperdone. I would wake up in different old hospitals. No one would ever tell me where I was at in that repetative night terror. Take Care, ~Sarah
This Is Something We Never Hear About. Even in Oregon……….
In other words, I see a direct link between patterns of acts of geonicide. I have Survived geonicide within my Own Family. All of My Grand Mothers and Great Grand Mothers Were Enslaved By geonicidal Grandfather. The Were Raped, Beaten, Sold, Humiliated, Locked Up In OHS, and Sometimes Even Killed. Just So that I Cold Be Here To Tell Everyone That This Pattern Is Everywhere. Wherever You Go, There You Are. A Victim Of Multiple Physiological Injuries or BioChemPoisoning That Is Being Put Into Everything we touch is now polluted. We Think That this only happens in Lower Class Homes, But Our Forefathers Had This Menality With Our Foremothers of USA Are Sadistc. Very Sadistic Indeed……..
I’ve most definitely met Nurse Ratchet in OT home enforcement, and the controlling influence of hospitals is definitely top-down and bottom-up male, and the stereotypic division of labor among staff, with women caregivers crying foul and raising alarms very tendentiously, and men caregivers acting to intimidate enforcing servility is very much actually played out, as though there never had been a Cuckoo’s Nest or feminist tirade about patriarchal oppression, each easily appreciated as deserved. Of course, the usual plan to coax and tolerate and make questions of obedience a moot point is most apparent at all hours, when patients haven’t bee bad. What a gold mine for politics of difference to study, and where are all the academics?
indeed, psychiatrci hospitals could be places for all sorts of disciplines to study: lawyers, anthropologists, sociologists, Queer Theorists, peace studies…..
Cool to see Jan Haaken appear on MIA. This place is shaping up to have all the players in the game. One thing about your film is I was on 50H apparently right before you started filming, and was retaliated against by staff there and sent off.. Possibly not king before you started filming.
I have GEI and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest HD for viewing on my site. http://www.Oregonstatehospital.net for interested viewers. Also my story of mutilation, crime, and being set up by the state to take the fall so they could build the new hospital is there. Basically I was the center of a criminal conspiracy in the facility between 2006-2008 heavily centered around the US DOJ investigation and Bonita Tucker scandal, and they went to all lengths, to even use a military weapon on me in August 2008 right in my room “setting me up to look psychotic” due to the states lack of liability insurance and other issues and them not wanting anyone to see what had been caught by hospital security cameras and microphones, including the staff caught on camera even discussing illegal remote technology being used on the patients there capable of spying on us all.
We now host weekly conference call discussions. Patients meet up: 1-855–725-6844, every Tuesday 7pm so far!
Direct link to films about OSH, including GEI, including antipsychiatry docs: http://www.OregonStateHospital.net/resources.html
Jan should send the uncut version of her film my way, the version meant for libraries and educational facilities.. ;(
Although I haven’t seen the film, my objections start with the title of the film. It sounds like “mental illness” excuse. I wouldn’t call it Guilty Except For Insanity. Insanity or not, one is still guilty of any infraction one commits. Were it me, I’d entitle it Guilty Despite Insanity. No condition, medical or otherwise, exonerates people who commit serious crime from the consequences of their wrong doing.
I couldn’t think of a better case for ending the insanity defense than this statement Dr. Haakan makes above. Right now, not to be outdone by the CIA, given that there are special psychiatric units to punish sex offenders beyond the terms of their sentences, the criminal justice system is turning to psychiatry for it’s cruel and unusual punishments by any other name. The criminal justice system itself, on the other hand, using the standard of proof, tries to stick more closely to the letter of the law.
I’ve got enough insight not to need psychotherapy, and as long as physical forms of treatment involve patient injury, I don’t need any of those. Since when are people put into what amounts to a prison over torment or distress? I’ve heard people talk about the experience of institutionalization as retraumatizing, but prison for a trauma victim, is that really necessary? Mental hospitals are not, and were not, hospitals. They are prisons. The incarcerated patient/inmates are not free to come and go as they please. You don’t put people in prison because you care for them, tough as a knuckle sandwich love aside, you put them in prison to punish them, of course, and to protect the general public. Who is “safe” from the “asylum”? The “asylum” that is going to harm people with assault, drugs, and electrically induced seizures. Harm that used to include sterilization and brain mutilation. This would-be protection you speak of is a crime against society. Okay. How is imprisonment supposed to reduce distress? It never reduced mine.
You want a movie pertaining to the oppression of women. Two movies have been released on the life of the French sculptor Camille Claudel. She was a sculptor who happened to have had an affair with Claude Rodin. She was also a victim of the patriarchy which said woman should be housewives, and that the arts as a field was something they couldn’t succeed in. Although she was said to be mad as early as 1905, it wasn’t until after her father died in 1913, a father who had always protected her in life, that she was put into an asylum by her family. Soon afterwards, doctors were trying to convince them that it was safe for her to come home, but they would have none of it. She spent the next 30 years in the lunatic asylums where she died.. Much as with Randle Patrick McMurphy, and others, Camille Claudel career as a human being of significance was essentially destroyed by psychiatry. The difference between him and her, of course, is that Randle Patrick McMurphy was fiction. It would be interesting to speculate on just how many Camille Claudels have passed through the doors of OSH.
There should be a mental health or circumstantial defense though. Imagine this: you have a brain tumor that causes you to set fire to a house,.. Do you seriously think it is just that you spend an eternity in prison especially with today’s mandatory minimums, or should you be acquitted because once the tumor was removed you were perfectly normal again and had full control? The definition of true insanity is one who lacks capacity to conduct their behavior according to law or one who can not recognize their criminality. This tends to be not an excuse but a way to give these people a second chance especially if it were medically induced or out of your control during the time of committance.
There exists a way that if your attorney doesn’t suck, you can use the GEI defense and receive acquittal and be found not dangerous to self or others and therefore not go to OSH and avoid PSRB jurisdiction. The problem is , judge and defense attorney never bring in the experts to make this determination, and by default send most cases to PSRB or OSH jurisdiction regardless. Where the person will stay until jurisdiction ends or full discharge granted.
I believe many people to not even be truly mentally ill who use the defense , but they can fabricate nearly any circumstance that they want under the frame work and many of these people are denied opportunity to even determine if they were truly guilty of their crime due to the way this plea is often misused to get the case resolved if even the hint that the person had a mental issue is present. Attorneys love it, DAs love it, it is max sentence and no trial, despite being an acquittal. It lacks many of the protections of a guilty verdict and normally never goes to trial.
There is always a circumstantial defense with the burden of proof requirement that cases should be determined on the basis of evidence. Brain tumor is a physiological condition, the same can’t be said for so-called “mental illness”, one might alternatively call it “moral disease”, question is, should anyone be let off the hook for their lack of moral fiber? Not exercising self-control doesn’t preclude the possibility of exercising self-control.
I don’t want to hear how the GEI defense can get a person the equivalent of NGRI verdict. Experts are a large part of the problem now because courts have given their opinion more clout than it actually deserves. Again, who is to draw the line between decisive action and “diseased” judgment? Oh, right, your expert. We’ve got experts for the defense, and experts for the prosecution, and the person who can afford the higher paid attorney also buys the better experts. Poor people merely get a jerk of a public defender who is actually working undercover for the prosecution.
I don’t know that we can properly say there is any such animal as “mental illness”. There is absolutely no test that proves that there is in fact any “disease” present at all in most cases of psychological distress. There are those behaviors that all sorts of circles of people judge harshly. Breaking the law of the land will earn you a prison sentence, breaking the rules of man will earn you time in the loony bin. An acquittal for which a person does time, and sometimes more time than a conviction, isn’t much of an acquittal, is it? There isn’t much oversight to mental facilities precisely because this is the laws way of getting around the law. Make the law apply, and real oversight again becomes necessary.
I will say this. The current mental health defense sucks, I was not defending it. I do feel it should be redone, where you are acquitted and rather held on the basis of dangerousness to self or others based purely on your use of the insanity defense at some point in the past, determine if simply you will immediately reoffend if released. In such case, perhaps the proper venue is civil commitment, but with the stricter constitutional standards of requiring that the person is immediately dangerous to self or others or cannot take care of themselves at all. At least this standard will allow some offenders to go free who did not commit severe acts or did on a one time basis but were found to not likely reoffend or be dangerous enough to civil commit.
I would have never been sent to OSH if this was the system because I didn’t even really commit a crime, I didn’t do anything significant, but I was held and abused for 5 years, after my attorney coerced me and denied me my right to defend myself (often tines attorneys will refuse to defend a client, and push a mental health plea because it requires nothing more than a psychologists evaluation, and they are usually never true experts at all and facts and evidence get thrown out the window because it doesn’t have to be jury time quality). I didn’t have any symptoms of mental illness either, I had social deficits from being abused by my family and denied access to high school by the state, merely making me unprepared for life without some help.. I never got any help at all.. I am convinced many other people suffer the same fate. 🙁
My sympathies, Todd. I think the situation you describe is more common than people like to acknowledge. I’m just saying that the insanity defense is intimately connected to the broader issue of forced treatment, that is, people who are have not broken any laws are not helped by the insanity defense, and people who are emotionally disturbed may be put in worse circumstances because of it. Camille Claudel spent much of her life in an institution because she was, in effect, thrown away, tossed into the loony bin, by her family. Any distress she may have been experiencing certainly wasn’t alleviated by the fact that she was essentially seen as domestic garbage. Linking criminality with the broader matter of confinement, and deprivation of liberty, becomes a way of anesthetizing people to those matters rather than of dealing with them as human rights violations. I would like to point out that holding forensic cases is no excuse for holding non-forensic cases. You’ve got felons with all sorts of physical complaints, too. Those physical complaints are just unlikely to result in any would-be special consideration, even if that special consideration would mean a substantially longer sentence all told.
This video stated very interesting points, but was not very educational. Other than the fact that it teaches the viewer how to plead guilty except for insanity, the video showed how wonderful the patients live, as if they not have done a crime. This video does not educate the viewer on the psychology of the patients. The video is a great advocate for the Oregon polices for criminals who plead guilty except for insanity and shows how wonderful their lives are within this hospital. This video was put together very well but lacked educationally and was a very one sided view on the matters of criminals who plead guilty except for insanity. I was disappointed in the over all message I got from the video.
I just watched this film. I wanted to take a minuet to express my views on it. I thought the film was well done. It was shot well. The music was beautiful and helped express changes through out. Having the music done by the patients was a cute touch as well. My only critique on the film from an artistic stand point is I felt the transitions from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to the film was over done. I understand they where shot at the same location and it was comparing fact from fiction along with the times but as a viewer it felt clunky. I think it should be mentioned but each section does not need to be opened with a scene from the movie. It takes away.
As for the points made in the movie I was much more disappointed. I came into the film expecting an educational program. I did not get that. I did not learn about the mental health system in Oregon. I did not learn about mental health. I really did not learn anything. This film is a glamorized depiction of the lives of these people. Attention or not the film seemed to have an agenda to promote these facilities. The film was very one sided. Any idea of treatment was lost in this film. We saw happy people committed of horrendous crimes going about their days. These people go out into public. They have freedoms. This movie glamorizes the insanity plea in Oregon. It’s a depicted as a plea bargain. The movie was beautifully produced but completely missed the mark.
I watched this film in my Abnormal Psychology Class and I feel as though it was educational and gave insight into a topic I had very little preexisting knowledge about. I appreciated the quality of production the film was shot in and the music was beautiful. Knowing the patients and staff of the hospital made and produced the music was a very nice way to incorporate the film to the patients in a more intimate way.
I didn’t like how one sided the film seemed to be. As a viewer we were only shown the positive and good points about the hospital and the patients. We heard the patients testimonials but never got the truth about whether or not what they were saying was the truth. A hospital holding so many different cases and patients all dealing with severe mental illnesses shouldn’t seem like such a carefree and happy place to be. Most of the patients seemed happy to be there and the film never displayed any kind of disputes or bad behavior.
I found the entirety of the film to be entertaining and well made but left me with many questions about how I feel about the whole subject and a bit of confusion on what is really right or wrong.
I watched Guilty Except for Insanity for my psychology course I would like to just say that I felt for a majority of those that had been followed throughout the documentary. I do not think that any case can be open shut and we all handle things the best we can. Sometimes, because of external and internal influences the mind can be over stressed and anyone of us may do something that they would later on regret. Imagine being confused, scared, anxious and paranoid in the throes of a break down. Then returning to “reality” and finding yourself in jail not knowing fully why due to your state of mind at the time of the criminal occurrence. I have a severe distaste for though who abuse the insanity plea but I truly think that the ones that are struggling because of a mental “disorder” deserve psychiatric help. I’m not trying to defend every person who has claimed inanity but in certain cases I could see that through proper psychiatric help they could return to a stable, happy way of living.
After viewing Guilty Except for Insanity I am curious as to why those who have committed a crime, that would result in life in prison in most situations, are being let back into society due to having a disorder. It would seem that this film has made the point that these people did not understand their actions and are being taught why and how to cope. If I murder someone can I apologize and gradually be put back into society? I do not believe they should ever be put back into society, even the gradual transition that the film shows. A danger to society is a danger regardless of a disorder or lack thereof.
After watching Mad In America I was left in a question filled grey area that I needed to dig myself out of. Though laid out and broken down well, I do not think the step program is appropriate for the situation. For characters like Nick York I think this system is more appropriate but still does not warrant outside interaction until your sentence is complete. This is still criminal justice system, forget the second role of a mental hospital. In jail, especially for violent crimes like assault, inmates can’t leave through the front door walk down the street buy some reheated gas station food as if nothing ever happened. A mental disorder is a very debilitating situation for their self and their family, that being said, there is still no excuse for the amount of freedom murderers received. Even though acts were done in a delirious state that does not make the individual less of a harm to society.
The movie we have watched in class was about Oregon state hospital. The film was very informative and interesting. It showed what kind of people are in our society and how we can identify if a person is ill or above the 93% insanity line. It showed us an example of what kinds of people are currently attending the state facility. Even though, people who committed terrible crimes were labeled as ill human beings and did not end up in prison. I do not agree with this particular situation, these people were given a second chance at life which, on east coast, is considered equality amount the citizens. However, equality does not always mean justice. People who commit such crimes must be sentenced to prison period. People who murder someone and pleads insanity are somewhat getting freedom for their heinous crimes. They are awarded more freedom than people who commit such hideous crimes. I think people that commit crimes such as murder should all serve the same sentence, such as time in prison.
My psychology class watched this film. While I applaud the film as a way to bring in attention and help towards an important topic in modern society through the use of beautiful music made by the patients and the scenes from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” as a way to keep the viewers attention and let them know what each particular section was going to be about. The way it was shot and edited would make most people sympathetic for the cause. But the issue with all that is that it didn’t allow us to learn anything. This wasn’t so much a documentary, but almost a commercial to showcase how the system in the Oregon State Hospital and Oregon’s “Guilty Except For Insanity” policy works. You commit a crime such as murder in Oregon? Simply state that you blacked out and woke up with the victim dead on the floor; that you don’t recall anything that happened at all. We’ll put you into a hospital where if we see improvement, gradually we will ease you back into society even if you are totally a risk to the safety of those around you.
I understand that yes, for some the system works. But as a whole it seems incredibly dangerous to allow those who have a past in violence to be able to be put back into society just because they “seemed” to be getting better. All it takes is for one instance where that individual can become stressed and knocked straight back into their blind violence and hurt more innocent people around them.
In order for this to be a documentary about OSH, there should be more information and footage about the patients we didn’t see. How the patients that we don’t see in this film are treated. Even if we just see how those who we do see are treated or how they act during their bad times. It seemed that the only part that we saw in their lives were the times when they seemed the most stable. For god sakes the film seemed okay with the fact that the woman who shot her son’s friend told her that she felt that that incident was necessary in that woman’s life; a revelation. That shooting her son and yelling at him for bleeding was what she needed to get better and she accepted that.
Where to begin?
I watched this documentary for an Abnormal Psychology class I was enrolled in this year. There are so many wonderful point this documentary hits that it is hard to express each briefly. I was very impressed by this film, I’ll start there. I enjoyed watching each aspect of it and enjoyed how ‘One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest’ was incorporated into the documentary- it is a film I have enjoyed in the past and will continue to enjoy in the future.
The most interesting part of the documentary to me would have to be listening and learning the patient’s stories- they are so raw and so personal and truthfully, they inspired me to open up a bit about my own experience with metal health disorders. Like many, someone very close to me suffers from a mental health disorder that has resulted in this individual being hospitalized (more than once). It took me enrolling in this class (and learning about mental health hospitals) to realize that sometimes these hospitals that are made to be safe havens for troubled and misunderstood individuals are not always safe- don’t hold this against me as I have watched and read into older mental health institutions and gained a greater understanding of the mental health institutions then and now- but I had to stop and ask myself, how much has changed? Is a mental health hospital considered an actual hospital or jail? With how heavily the hospitals are abused by criminals, I am sure we are asking ourselves the same question… but then again, what is considered a criminal?
The music in the film was so impressive- the fact that patients and staff came together to form something so beautiful to incorporate in such a documentary (featuring dark subject matter) is outstanding. However, I believe that the good was being portrayed in this film when in the end- I believe in both good and evil factors. Where was the bad (other than the darkness shared by the patients and the reasoning of why they ended up in the hospital in the first place). I find it is easy to display the good in things but hard to display the bad when no one wants to explain the reasoning behind the bad.
I will take the information I learned from this documentary share it with others whom are interested. I believe great debates will come from this documentary and even better understanding on a subject that isn’t easily understood.