In early 1850 the Provincial Lunatic Asylum in Toronto, Canada, admitted its first patients. For years the facility was one of the largest public buildings in that nation.
Dr. Joseph Workman, Superintendent from 1853 until 1875, stressed the importance of taking family histories and seeking hereditary traits, because he believed that many patients seemed to be born with a tendency to mental illness. He observed dysfunctional families but saw the illness as the cause and not the result of the family dynamics. Freud, Jung and psychoanalysis had not yet arrived on the scene. He studied alcoholism and even noted what we now call 'fetal alcohol syndrome'.
At Workman's suggestion, the study of alienism (now known as psychiatry) was introduced into medical schools in both Canada and this country.
The Lunatic Asylum was demolished about thirty years ago. On that site now stands The Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centers in the area of addiction and mental health. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Center.
The CAMH project is unique for many reasons. The old city asylum was torn down and replaced by an urban village where people with mental illness and addictions can mingle in an everyday way with people not suffering from mental illness. The CAMH project is part of a bigger project called The Inter-generational Wellness Center. The Center will house a Geriatric Mental Health program, and a Child, youth, and Family Program. When it's completed, the project will become an ordinary part of Toronto life with shops, restaurants, offices, and apartments.
Imagine the lack of stigma recipients of CAMH will enjoy. Amazing.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles county it becomes increasingly difficult for the indigent mentally ill to just find a place to sit awhile and feel safe from constant command hallucinations much less find a place to receive medications or hospitalizations.
If Canada can do it, why can't we?