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Medical History

Managing Madness

Weyburn Mental Hospital and the Transformation of Psychiatric Care in Canada

by (author) Erika Dyck & Alex Deighton

with Hugh Lafave, John Elias, Gary Gerber, Alexander Dyck, John Mills & Tracey Mitchell

University of Manitoba Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2017
History, Post-Confederation (1867-), Social History
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2017
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2017
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
    List Price

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The Saskatchewan Mental Hospital at Weyburn has played a significant role in the history of psychiatric services, mental health research, and providing care in the community. Its history provides a window to the changing nature of mental health services over the 20th century.

Built in 1921, Saskatchewan Mental Hospital was considered the last asylum in North America and the largest facility of its kind in the British Commonwealth. A decade later the Canadian Committee for Mental Hygiene cited it as one of the worst facilities in the country, largely due to extreme overcrowding. In the 1950s the Saskatchewan Mental Hospital again attracted international attention for engaging in controversial therapeutic interventions, including treatments using LSD.

In the 1960s, sweeping healthcare reforms took hold in the province and mental health institutions underwent dramatic changes as they began transferring patients into communities. As the patient and staff population shrunk, the once palatial building fell into disrepair, the asylum’s expansive farmland went out of cultivation, and mental health services folded into a complicated web of social and correctional services.

Erika Dyck’s "Managing Madness" examines an institution that housed people we struggle to understand, help, or even try to change.

About the authors

Erika Dyck is a historian of health, medicine, and Canadian society at the University of Saskatchewan. Her research has concentrated on the history of mental health, institutionalization, and experimentation.

Erika Dyck's profile page

Alexander Deighton is a graduate student in History at the University of Saskatchewan.

Alex Deighton's profile page

Hugh Lafave's profile page

John Elias' profile page

Gary Gerber's profile page

Alexander Dyck's profile page

John Mills was born in Toronto in 1931, and has lived there all his life. He graduated from the University of Toronto in 1952. Shortly thereafter, John entered the business world, but found that a commercial career was not for him, and soon returned to the University of Toronto as an administrative staff member. Being a compulsive researcher, he found this to be an ideal workplace environment, as it provided him with unrestricted access to the university's enormous collection of information, books and artifacts.The author is a founding member of the Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association, and is an honourary life member. The OERHA operates the Halton County Radial Railway, featuring historic electric transit vehicles in action at their museum in Milton, Ontario.John has written several books on electric railway subjects, including Niagara, St. Catharines & Toronto Railway, and Cataract Traction. Several others are in preparation. Besides being interested in railways, John is equally fascinated by steamboats, and is the author of The New Mills List. This is a listing, with statistics and other details, of over 6000 Canadian coastal and inland steamers from the beginning, covering the period from 1809 up to 1930. The definitive edition was published in 1999.In addition to his transportation hobby, John's great joy in life is travelling the world. He hopes you will enjoy your own travels back to a bygone era, through the fascinating transportation systems that comprised Ontario’s Grand River Valley Electric Railways.

John Mills' profile page

Tracey Mitchell's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Contains fascinating glimpses into Saskatchewan’s psychiatric past.”

Bulletin of the History of Medicine

“A fascinating and nuanced look at the transformation of psychiatric care in Canadian history.”

Canada’s History

“One of the best books I have read in the last year. Detailed, thorough, suggestive, and built around the institutional dynamics of Saskatchewan’s Weyburn Mental Hospital, it is the history of an era in Canadian psychiatry.”

The Canadian Historical Review

“Makes an admirable contribution to our understanding of the history of psychiatric care generally, showing how it was intertwined with the history of one of its most important institutions, the Weyburn Mental Hospital.”

History of Psychiatry

“Les auteurs de Managing Madness nous offrent en effet un portrait réaliste et des plus nuancés de ce que fut la transformation des modalités de prise en charge de la maladie mentale dans cette province des Prairies canadiennes au cours du XXe siècle.”

Histoire sociale/Social history

“This is how regional medical history should be written – firmly grounded in place, people, and community, yet with a clear appreciation of events taking place beyond the boundaries of the local.”

Canadian Bulletin of Medical History

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