Kirkbride Buildings Blog

June 12th, 2009

A Memorial for the Mentally Ill

Anonymous Grave of a Psychiatric Hospital Patient

A national memorial for the mentally ill is being planned by Mental Health America and will be placed on the grounds of Saint Elizabeths hospital. The memorial is meant to specifically honor the thousands of people who have died while being treated at psychiatric hospitals around the nation and whom are often buried in anonymous graves such as the one pictured above. According to a Mental Health America press release:

The Gardens at Saint Elizabeths — A National Memorial of Recovered Dignity designed by the University of Georgia’s School of Environmental Design, under the supervision of Professor Scott S. Weinberg, Associate Dean and recent graduate Elizabeth Brunelli — will be woven into an existing 10-acre cemetery that inters some 4,500 psychiatric patients who died at the federal facility. Nearly half of those with military grave markers are veterans dating back to the Civil War; the rest are civilians from the District of Columbia with no grave markers. Under the plan for the memorial, metal markers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia will list the numbers buried and at which institutions surrounded by gardens and a pool of water.”

Donations for the memorial can be sent to Mental Health America; 2000 North Beauregard St.; 6th Floor; Alexandria, VA 22311.

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  1. squad546 June 12, 2009, 11:19 pm

    All I can say it’s about time someone did a project like this! Sad thing is, to this day there are quite a few state hospitals with cemeteries that do little or nothing about them. I always remember the quote “Forgotten in life, forgotten in death”.

  2. WSH June 15, 2009, 1:26 pm

    I agree, it’s about time. I just hope that this doesn’t send the message that now that there is a National memorial that individual cemetaries can be further neglected. Who is the actual driving force behind this project??

  3. Ethan June 15, 2009, 2:22 pm

    Mental Health America is the group responsible for the project. I’m not sure if there’s an individual who had the idea. If there is, they don’t seem to be claiming any credit.

    Good point about how this might lead to individual cemeteries being further neglected. I suspect and like to think that that won’t happen, but it’s a possibility.

  4. squad546 June 17, 2009, 12:15 am

    I actually think it would have the opposite effect. I think it will help raise awareness of the neglected state hospital cemeteries and get people interested in projects.

  5. archangelo June 18, 2009, 4:48 pm

    Ugh. Let’s also erect a national memorial to the victims of polio. And smallpox. And the Plague. And leukemia. And pinworms. And measles. And chicken pox. And emphysema. And swine flu.

    This is bo-ring. I suffered through all that advocacy for “The Homeless” for too many years during the 80s and 90s, and now I have to put up with another iteration of the same thing (“The Homeless” are merely the mentally ill who are loose on the streets to plague the rest of polite society).

    I love Kirkbride buildings and cottage plans and so many other forms of architecture. I appreciate and support honest efforts to clinically treat the mentally ill. This whole “elevation of the victim” culture has gone wayyyyy overboard, however, and it has become invasive. Please make it stop.

  6. Karen Kasulke June 18, 2009, 8:35 pm

    I have to agree with squad546 here. These were people who were often thrown aside in life and forgotten about except by a those people who made their care their own personal mission. Having said that, it might be appropriate to include those caregivers along with the sufferers of mental illness. It takes a certain kind of person to accept a challenge like Kirkbride and Dix and others like them did.

  7. Ethan June 21, 2009, 9:26 pm

    archangelo, while there’s something to what you say and I can respect your opinion, in the end I come to the conclusion that this particular memorial is justified (like squad and Karen stated) because these people were so often not properly memorialized individually at their death.

    I think something like this headstone at the Columbus State Hospital cemetary speaks volumes to this fact:

    Headstone Photo by keysersoze59 on Flickr

  8. Ethan June 22, 2009, 9:54 pm

    Here’s more info about where the idea for the memorial came from: Unmarked Grave Memorial to be Established at St. Elizabeths

  9. Roy October 12, 2009, 10:40 am

    I would like to know who to cantact about raiseing some money for a little girl that has no head stone here in Utah. How would I go about getting funds?

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