This past weekend I had the opportunity to partake in a celebration. It was to celebrate the birthday of a place that was either a work place or home for some. The place I am referring to is called the Saskatchewan Hospital. It is a place that has helped thousands of people who have had or have mental health issues. It was built in 1913 under the superintendent Dr James MacNeill. He believed that people who suffered with mental issues were not criminals as the majority thought at that time. People believed that insanity was a criminal offense and with such should be sent to prison. MacNeill believed because they were not criminals he was able to get these people to go to an asylum in Manitoba.
The asylum was not any better than the prisons they had been sent to before. So Saskatchewan decide to build a hospital to house their citizens that were diagnosed ‘insane’. It was believed that the beauty, trees, scenery, river, good air and quiet rest would help in the cure of the patients more than any other treatment available. The province didn’t spare any expense to build. Originally it allowed $450,000 for the building but in the end it ended up costing $1,000,000.
There were houses built on the property to house the doctors, nurses, and other people that were needed to run the hospital. With that were children which needed a school to go to. As well as playgrounds, and recreational fields. There were gardens to grow the food that fed the population. It was it’s own little community.
One of the tour guides that took us around the grounds last weekend recounted how it was like to grow up on the grounds. The teacher they all loved, the smells coming from the bakery, the camaraderie amongst all the families living on the grounds. She loved growing up there and there was no danger felt by anyone.
ARTIFACTS IN THE MUSEUM:
MacNeill did much to remove the stigmatism that the patients were not prisoners. He removed all the bars off the windows, got rid of the airing courts, had the patients work in the hospital and its grounds, forbade any mechanical restraints and the term asylum was not to be used.
By 1946 the number of patients peaked at 4,000. The hospital was first to use many of the medication advancements so by 1980 that number dropped to 300. Patients were allowed to live in the community while been overseen by medical staff.
Now that the hospital has reached an age of 100 years and the wards that were once the top of the line are now old.
It is time for newer surroundings for the citizens and staff. Plans are being made for a new hospital to be built on the same grounds so the view, trees, and peaceful surroundings can still be used.
The pictures of the buildings and grounds along with the artifacts seen in the museum on site tell just a little bit of the story of the hospital. For a more in depth story please click on this hyperlink Sask Hospital History to read a (PDF format) detailed history and see old pictures of this wonderful hospital.