The Lost Patients of Washington’s Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital

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From The Seattle Times: “Lillian Massie pinches the floppy brim of her hat between her fingers and stares at the camera. At 24 years old, Lillian is a mother to two children. She’s slim, with wavy hair cropped at the ears and is once again pregnant or has possibly just given birth to a third child. She stands on what appears to be a train platform, a belt cinched above her belly. Sun washes over her face. It’s 1925, and this is the last known photograph ever taken of her.

For the next nine years until her death, Lillian will be confined at Northern State Hospital, the now-shuttered Washington mental institution folded into a lush valley enclosed by dark mountain peaks an hour’s drive north of Seattle.

. . . Northern State Hospital took in tens of thousands of people like Lillian, most from the Seattle area. Today, there’s scant evidence these patients ever existed. But as the 50-year anniversary of Northern State’s closure approaches this summer, family members and neighbors of the abandoned institution are fighting to recover them.

. . . Much of the country is now considering a push for more psychiatric care to get people off the street, such as California’s and New York City’s plans to expand involuntary treatment. Some fed up with the current mental health system look to places like Northern State with nostalgia. Many others see institutions as prisons for people with mental illnesses.

Between the two narratives are missing graves and ghost stories.”

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