Sunday, June 26, 2022

Comments by Grace45

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  • I was in Dean Brooks hospital in 1969-70. While there I was never aware of Brooks coming into any wards, including those in my unit. I was also astonished when years later I learned there was a patient council — never heard of that either.

    Regardless of his high-minded notions about psych drugs, everyone on my ward was heavily drugged on antipsychotics, regardless of whether we’d even shown evidence of psychosis or not. Those drugs were terribly depressing and debilitating, but nobody on the staff gave a rip about how you felt — if you refused to take the drugs, you’d be injected and quite likely spend a few days in solitary for not doing what you were told to do.

    Brooks has a story about how he improved the ward clothing to make it more dignified — instead of wrappers he supposedly mandated real clothing. However I remember very well that in 1969, only two people on my unit were able to wear ward clothes that were actual clothing: a very fat woman and my very thin self. That was because the sizes we wore in clothing that dated back to pre-Brooks era were rather pretty dresses were the only ones that hadn’t been worn out. Everybody else, neither very fat or very thin, were stuck with the bathrobe-type wrappers purchased during Brooks’ tenure. He didn’t improve the clothing; he made it much worse. I still remember women clutching those inadequate wrappers to try to stay covered and warm.

    In 1969-70, ward life was pretty similar to that shown in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest except that there was rarely any staff beyond aides on our unit. But the aides certainly lorded it over us n just like Big Nurse did in the movies. You did whatever they ordered you to do without hesitation or they would threaten you with solitary or with “talking to the psychiatrist about getting your treatment increased (the scariest threat because that meant even more of the disastrous drugs or even forced shock, a common punishment).

    Those wanting a realistic picture of life inside OSH under Brooks should read Ward 81, which documented life on one ward there. The book ends with a nightmarish account of a woman who decided to refuse the drugs, intelligently citing their awful effects, and who was then utterly destroyed by forced shock, day after day, as ‘treatment’ as part of her punishment for that. Those who think Brooks was such a saint because he took 51 select inmates on a trip to the mountains once should read that (it’s online) to get the real story of what life in OSH under Brooks was like.

    However there were some good aspects to the hospital. The food was pretty good. And almost all of us were on co-ed all-ages wards. Oregon State Hospital, to its credit, refused to form kids wards until forced to do so by the courts in the 1970’s, and I consider myself very fortunate to have been on an all-ages ward at age 17 instead of one of the kid-ghetto wards they were forced to create a few years later.