The Sunday Magazine

Documentary: Museum of Psychiatry

Legend has it that in 1795, in the thick of the French Revolution, Phillipe Pinel removed the shackles from the wrists of the women in his hospital care. They were mad women. Seven thousand of them. Surrounded as he was by tumult and change, a light had gone on in Pinel's head. Perhaps madness was an illness, he thought. Perhaps...
Legend has it that in 1795, in the thick of the French Revolution, Phillipe Pinel removed the shackles from the wrists of the women in his hospital care. They were mad women. Seven thousand of them. Surrounded as he was by tumult and change, a light had gone on in Pinel's head. Perhaps madness was an illness, he thought. Perhaps people could be cared for, not punished, not kept prisoner. Perhaps something could be done.

Philippe Pinel became known as the father of psychiatry, an early pilgrim on the very twisted road towards the cure and treatment of mental illness.

Two hundred years qualifies psychiatry as a discipline with a history. And in the last few decades, museums of psychiatry have popped up all over the world. One of the biggest and oldest is housed in an old asylum in Ghent, Belgium. What is unusual about it is that the museum asks critical questions about the discipline it documents.

There are glass cases with ancient strait jackets and rusty medical implements and, when Karin Wells dropped in, a very contemporary exhibition called Nervous Women.  
Karin's documentary is called A Thin Line.

Every year the Dr. Guislain Museum hosts an international competition called "Breaking the Chains of Stigma". It offers a prize of $50,000 to an organization anywhere in the world that is judged to have done the most to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

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