So working with farm animals can be beneficial to patients, as stated in
the May 16 issue? What a revolutionary "discovery."
For many years in this country, and as late as the 1960s, mental hospitals
in Wisconsin and many other states had farm operations, as well as gardens and
orchards, as part of their operations. Here in Wisconsin, long-term patients
who loved farming helped tend the herds and worked in the creamery. Women
chatted, voluntarily and cheerfully, in the paring room and bakery. These were
vocations—farming and homemaking—from which many patients came and
of which they were very proud. These duties gave them a purpose, some
productivity, and pride.
Along came the age of deinstitutional enlightenment. The civil liberties
people cried "exploitation." The barns were dismantled, the
gardens plowed under, and the orchards cut down. "Industrial
therapy" didn't include these mundane duties. The patients were sent"
home" to often nonexistent community programs. Now many patients
get their heat from a steam grate and sleep under a bridge. Prisons have
become the nation's largest repository of mentally ill individuals. Random
violence and panhandling on the street give psychosis, once again, a bad
Just as we have now "discovered" that tending animals can be
therapeutic for some patients, someone will "discover" that mental
hospitals, for some long-term patients, are necessary and the best option. And
that they might even suggest, as was the case in earlier times, that those
hospitals should be rural and remote, away from the hustle and bustle and
commotion, near blooming and growing things, a place to restore the spirit of
people broken on the wheels of living. And then we will, once again, as in
earlier times, decide that jails and prisons, and alleys and bridges, are not
the best places for sick individuals who really deserve a hospital rather than
Who knows? Maybe the hospital will even have a farm, animals, gardens, and
orchards because someone, in 2008, has discovered they can be helpful.