Crumbling cuckoo’s nests

Time reports that Oregon State Hospital, the psychiatric hospital used to film the Oscar-winning movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is being demolished.

It’s not the hospital that Kesey based his play on, but it’s interesting that even the demolition of the hospital which was the background for the movie makes big news.

The book, film and play have fascinated me for years, not least because they are still where most people get their mental images from when they think of a psychiatric hospital. Needless to say, the images are usually pretty stark.

The other image people seem to have, which I call the ’12 Monkeys’ scenario, is where lots of wacked out patients wearing pyjamas acts as if they’re in a world of their own, while a TV set shows old cartoons in the corner.

Needless to say, modern hospital care bears little resemblance to these stereotypes and tends to go from what I call ‘airport departure wards’ at the worst (full of bored people, sitting around, waiting to leave) to comfortable and relaxing environments with constructive activities available and a good medical team at the best.

However, there is generally a move away from monolithic psychiatric hospitals to having psychiatric wards as part of general hospitals.

As we noted earlier this year, the sometimes beautiful buildings of these older hospitals are rapidly disappearing, often because people are uncomfortable with either the troubled past of the hospital, or with the idea of madness in general.

On a similar note, ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind has just started a 3-part series, exploring the oral history of one of Australia’s biggest and oldest hospitals, built in 1865.

Link to Time article ‘Cuckoo’s Nest Hospital to be Torn Down’ (via BB).
Link to AITM on the history of Goodna Mental Hospital.

One thought on “Crumbling cuckoo’s nests”

  1. As a 20+ year mental patient, I’ld say the physical environment (starting 1985) is just like the two movies you list. I expect a difference between criminal psych wards and regular “hospital” psych wards. I was and might be again in the regular “hospital”psych ward.
    Great euphemism Vaughan “waiting to leave”, because they weren’t prisoners but patients.

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