Willard Psychiatric Centre


1869: Willard Psychiatric Center opened
First patient: Mary Rote

Willard's Cemetary1870: Willard cemetery set up (5576 graves by the time it closed)
1869-94: Received only patients from across the state that had exhausted the  public resources of their counties
1893: Hadley Hall built: 500 seat auditorium and bowling alley. Held dances, concerts lectures and amateur theatrics

Early at Willard, the families of those not destitute expected were to provide clothing, special needs and stipend (payment/monetary recompense to Willard)
People were admitted to Willard not just for diagnosis but also for their ability to work to sustain the institution.
Those considered ‘violent’ were kept in Back Wards away from everyone. Their time there was regimented and boring dominated by filth, neglect and lack of heat.

1920’s: One of its buildings, Hadley Hall, was used for Monday night screenings of films of the time like SPOOK RANCH, LOVE HOUR, THE SIEGE and THE IRON HORSE.

Funds raised were raised by superintendents from local businesses and individual donors

A Period of relaxation for the patientsOccupational therapies were introduced at Willard (occupational meaning ‘being occupied’ rather than preparing for a career.) Art and craft activities the main therapies including: Weaving, rug making, leatherwork. Basketry, needlework, light woodwork, drawing, painting and pottery making. Patients used it to escape, chat, socialize, escape boredom and not think about their situation.

1926: Boring day-to-day ritual but chances to make money by selling newspapers etc. Every Monday night there was a picture show.

Treatments at Willlard

1930’s AND 40’s: Willard dominated by drug treatments. Little in way of health treatment.

Pre 1950’s: HYDROTHERAPY: patients submerged in cold or tepid baths for long periods
INSULIN (intro 1937)
Both designed to induce violent seizures
Replaced a few years later by
‘ELECTRO SHOCK TREATMENT’ (periods of large number of shock treatments known as ‘The Blitz’. The treatment often broke patient’s backs. No sedative was used. Blitzed 2/3 times a day. Neck would arch up, big thing in the mouth, massive convulsing. After they were put in their little rooms naked.

During 1942 alone Willard doctors administered 1,443 shock treatments.

1940’s 50’s: COLD PACKS: patients wrapped in wet sheets and set on tub of ice.

1950’s: Neuroplegic drugs like THORAZINE introduced widely (chemical restraint to help deal with a large number of patients) effect: powerful muscle spasms, parkinsonism.
Ward 5: Lights no shades just bulbs. Very cold, glass of water would freeze over night.

A Working Farm at WillardEvening Routine: 3.20pm prepare medication
Evening meal
Gather in alcove to smoke
Boring, dangerous, smell
Many staff lacked training
Closed society
Some staff had relatives at Willard (including Ethel)

Following a number of reports damning the system Willard finally started to put in place ideas to prepare and return patients to society. By that time many were too old and unprepared and so were moved into homes to see out their remaining years (like Dmytre).

Occupational therapy went from arts and crafts to on the job training: accounting, typing etc.
Willard opened the state system’s first Rehabilitation Department offering socialisation skills and ‘activities of daily living: cooking, shopping, budgeting, grooming’ Halfway house opened to those who were preparing to leave the system.. Some piecework paid for the work they did.

1973: Unpaid patient labor was outlawed in psychiatric centres
1988: The Sheltered Workshop Building were torn down
1995: Willard was closed
Aerial view of Willard