(When he began working there...) I was alone at that time, and I had no family... For Canadians, I think it was that you were working at a not so very good place, but I met people from Europe, and that includes Scotland, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and they were very professional people. Not in the medical field, or psychiatric field, but some of them had very high qualities. We had two or three dentists from Germany, we had people from Germany, we had one who was major in the army, they were very well-educated people... The people like us, from other countries... we were grateful to have a job there. But very few what we call Canadians, very few, because you see, coming from Italy like I did, it wasn't a good thing to work at in Ontario hospital at that time... But I had no problem, I enjoyed it there. I loved to work there.
"There were, when I started, perhaps ten or twelve doctors altogether. There would be the Medical Superintendent, an Assistant Superintendent. The hospital had two units: men and women...Women were on one side, separate wards, men on the other. Women mostly had female staff. Men mostly had male staff, except that there were not enough men who were registered nurses so sometimes women registered nurses worked on the male wards...The examination building had an operating room on the top floor and specialists would come from the city: surgeons, gynaecologists, obstetricians, specialists in internal medicine. They would make regular rounds whenever it was needed. So in a sense people got as good care as we were capable of providing."
1958-1964 and 1970-1995
When Joan Killi first started as a nurse at the Ontario Psychiatric Hospital of London, she specialized in working with patients who had undergone lobotomies. The movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest did not help the myths regarding this form of treatment. After the lobotomy scene, when Jack Nicholson's character became a vegetable, a disclaimer should have appeared on the screen saying that this was not an accurate representation of what happens to patients after having surgery. Lobotomies at the hospital were performed on three patients every Friday: female patients one week, males the next. Within a week, if the surgery was successful, changes could be seen in the patient. One patient was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder; her need for her sweaters to be perfectly aligned was interfering with her life. Four or five days after her lobotomy she was found to be no longer ruled by her compulsion. This intrusive surgery was eventually replaced with tranquillizers in the 1960's.
1960s - 1990s
A previous employee of the former London Psychiatric Hospital, when asked about her initial interest in the field of mental health care, provided an answer which sheds light on perceptions of mental illness. She emphasized the stigma which existed against mental illness and the nature of society to feel sorry for those suffering from its grips, but went on to share her refreshing approach. "I always treated the patients as though they were well," likening their illness to "a broken arm." She goes on to acknowledge that mental illness is much more difficult to cure than a broken bone, but emphasized that "they were people first."
When asked if he had observed any treatments, Ron recalled taking male patients for ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy), which was one of his duties as tenant staff. He alludes to one of the hospital's major challenges, which was having enough staff to manage the volume of patients: "You'd take one ward at a time, ten people or so. By the time the next guy was ready, he was looking and seeing the guy before him convulsing." He also mentioned that Dr. Wickware had ECT done on himself to prove the safety of the treatment and so he was aware of what the treatment felt like.
Oct 15, 1970-Present
When I asked Mr. Tom Daly what his favourite memories were surrounding his time at the Former LAI and the RMHCL, he focused on the social aspect of his job. He enjoyed the close relationships that formed between staff members and between staff and patients.
He was particularly fond of nursing week which would take place each year in May. During this week, each day, from 9:00am until 4:00pm there would be educational options for nurses, fun activities and cake. On one occasion, Mr. Daly dressed as Dr. Bucke for the festivities. The night staff that, were unable to take part, would have pizza delivered to them so they could also be included. Nursing week was not just celebrated by nurses. As Mr. Daly mentioned nursing week "included everyone from housekeeping to dietary staff because the place wouldn't function without them."
Mr. Daly was hired in 1970 around the time that the new hospital was built and jokes that he "came with the building." Though Mr. Daly retired, he continues to work on a part basis in geriatrics at the RMHCL. At the end of our interview Mr. Daly left me one of his inspirational mottos, "bloom where you're planted."
Rev. Charles Scott
Rev. Charles Scott worked as a member of Chaplin Services, during which time he acted as counsellor to patients. Rev. Scott also created a training program for clergy working in mental health care facilities, which educated clergy members on how to successfully work in mental health. He believes that acceptance is therapeutic and that that rehabilitation starts with an acknowledgement of a need for help. Working at the LPH was not about forcing religion on people it was about listening to patients, and being there when they were in crisis.
Dee Thomptson started her job at the LPH in 1977 in the Food Service Department. She was promoted later to the Manager of the Operator Two, a small variety store for accommodating the psychiatric patients, family visitors, and staff.
"...So it's like a place where all patients could come, meeting their family and enjoying a couple of coffee or cold drink or have a smoke at that time, and interact with their family for visiting... every time I came down, 'Hi Dee, hello Dee', so everyone knows me there as Dee..."
"well one woman there, her daughter was admitted years later and uh, you know as they say it is hereditary, can be, and this young girl had a baby and she was in postpartum depression, but she was really, really a bipolar, just high as a kite, as you say, and uh, one thing they did too in the ward I was on they, they brought the baby in and she looked after it, in the hospital, you know, it was considered she was no danger to the baby and, she wasn't really, except that [smiles] I remember one day finding the baby in the out basket [laughs] which you know like, she just put it in there she thought it was a safe, safe place for it I guess, it was a coincidence that, but she got better, she, she had come from a big family and of course when you leave and that you don't uh . . . you lose touch with them of course."
In the 1960s at the London Psychiatric Hospital, female employees were able to have one 3-month maternity leave. This 3-month period was unpaid, with no benefits from the hospital - meaning that individuals paid for their own medical bills, without receiving any income. If a woman chose to have a second child, she was required to resign her position. After she had the child, she could reapply for her position at the hospital, and if it was vacant, she might be rehired. If she was, she lost any years of service or seniority she may have had and started over as a new employee.
Rev. Clare Wideman
Medical treatment was only part of the care that patients at the LPH required. Pastoral care was provided by Chaplains such as Rev. Clare Wideman. Throughout his time at the hospital Rev. Wideman provided counselling and service to patients of many religious denomination, even non-religious people. Not only was he involved in planning patients' treatment programs, he also assisted staff in their own times of need.
When asked if the practice of moral therapy continued to be used when working at the LPH/RMHCL, she responded by stating the following:
"Even when I started there and was a staff nurse, this was in the beginning of the 1970s, patients were expected to...if they could, it was highly encouraged, that they have a productive day."
"Because you had to go back into the community as soon as you could; which, in some cases was a long time. Just to keep you motivated to do something, and we had, the hospital being brand new, our industrial therapy had different workshops and the occupational therapy room...we had kitchens where patients, with occupational therapy staff and nurses, the women especially, would still keep up with their cooking skills and I know one of the occupational therapists was quite a knitter, so some of the patients would get into the knitting part. They just were doing something for the day."
On working with patients:
"I always enjoy, like I say you go out and you have them and you can see whether they're enjoying their work or not. And, ah, if they're not enjoying it you walk up and you ask him, you say, 'sir, are you not having a good day or something like that?', and you talk to him, 'yea I'm fine. I'm ok.' and then the next thing you know he's working harder than everybody else in the field. And you'd say to him well if you don't feel like you wanna do your job today. Just, why don't you go relax under a tree for a while and maybe you'll feel better a little bit later...some of them worked harder than others. And some just did whatever they could and that's all that was expected. Just do what you can do and that was it. They were never ever pressured into doing any more than what they wanted to do... It was the best 25 years, 6 months of my life."
Registered Mental Nurse
A 30 year tenure which included positions as a ward nurse, Head Nurse at the Electroconvulsive Therapy Clinic, and as Nursing Service Coordinator. Early years at the Ontario Hospital were more difficult as it was stressed that overcrowding limited staff ability to maintain close watch over patients. Although overcrowded, emphasis was placed on the strong relationship between staff, which was described as being "like a family." It was also noted that the London Psychiatric Hospital had a well respected psychogeriatric ward, as staff from other hospitals in Ontario and the United States visited in order to observe and learn their methods.