Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:30 pm
Here is an article from a local paper in my area.
I've never heard this one before!
Movie Stars, Lobotomies and Electrostimulation
Museum exhibit celebrates Homewood Health Centre's long history of care
January 21, 2008
Kurt Cobain and Marilyn Monroe are rumoured to be among the troubled stars that sought treatment at the renowned Homewood Health Centre in Guelph.
Always on the leading edge of addiction and mental illness therapy throughout its 125-year history, the centre has treated the wife of a former prime minister, leading athletes and, apparently, a few notable celebrities.
The institution was still performing the occasional prefrontal lobotomy in Monroe's time, (she died in 1962) but had turned to more pharmaceutical therapies in the days when the Nirvana lead-singer struggled with heroin addiction.
The possible Monroe/Cobain connection to the local facility, idyllically situated near the banks of the Speed River, is among many intriguing elements of "125 Years of Improving Life: The History of Homewood Health Centre."
The exhibit is at the Guelph Civic Museum until April 13.
Edgardo Pérez, chief executive and president of Homewood, said the science and treatment of addiction and mental illness is constantly evolving. That evolution is evident in the exhibit, which takes up a large section of the museum's second floor.
A large black box equipped with various meters, switches and knobs is part of the exhibit. The device was once used in so-called electrostimulation therapy, popular in the late 19th century. Back when the body was thought to be like a large magnet, therapists believed electrical charges from the box could heal imbalances caused by barbiturate poisoning.
Alcoholics and other addicts used to be immersed in prolonged baths to draw impurities out of the body. Electroshock (or electroconvulsive) therapy was introduced at Homewood in 1942, and remains a treatment option today for people with severe depression who do not respond to other treatment.
Lobotomies were introduced in 1953 and used to treat severe and uncontrollable psychiatric anguish. It was rarely used, and ultimately rendered obsolete by antipsychotic drugs. The 1968 discovery that there was a link between the neurotransmitter serotonin and depression resulted in the further evolution of treatment through new medications.
"The way to look at those methods is as best practices," Pérez said. "Those were the best practices at the time, because Homewood always used the best practices throughout the years. Homewood was always looking at the new technology, but also at the human side.
"That has been really essential in making us a great facility and being able to survive for 125 years."
Bev Dietrich, curator of the museum, said Homewood is one of the great institutions of Guelph. The fact it has thrived for so long is a major achievement, she said, and one the museum is happy to celebrate. While the exhibit deals with unconventional subject matter, she is confident it will be well received.
"Everybody knows somebody that's been to Homewood," Dietrich said. "Homewood is well known, and a lot of people have had experience with it. Here we have a great opportunity to celebrate its history and the achievements it has made over the years."
Penny Rothwell, Homewood's conference and tour co-ordinator, said the health centre had a storehouse of archival materials it was able to draw on for the exhibit, including numerous photographs of the treatment environments and the facility's beautiful setting.
Founders John Woodburn Langmuir and Dr. Stephen Lett bought the Guthrie estate in 1883 and turned it into a psychiatric hospital.
"When the Guthrie house was first purchased it was a very calm and therapeutic place, and it remains that way now," Rothwell said. "We take great pains to keep the grounds that way. We stay away from the institutional feeling, maintain the natural beauty and create more of a comfortable, home-like setting where people can reflect."
Pérez is proud of Homewood's record as a place of healing. "We are here to help people improve their quality of life. That is a very important mission for us. It comes back to the relationship between the application of technology and the advances in medicine and psychiatry, and using it through a compassionate approach to care. We are always looking for news ways to help people."
John Diefenbaker's first wife, Edna May Diefenbaker, was treated at Homewood, as was Toronto Maple Leafs star Ron Ellis, who suffered from depression. Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and Red Skelton are also rumoured to have spent time at the centre.
Confidentiality agreements forbid officials from revealing the names of patients.