Depression and the depression : an analysis of the patient ledgers of the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford from 1929 to 1939
Studies of the Great Depression in Saskatchewan tend to focus on the unsurpassed poverty, unemployment and general suffering that characterize this period. Little research, however, has been conducted on how this suffering may have contributed to the increasing rates of committals in provincial mental hospitals throughout the 1930s. The Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford (SHNB) not only experienced increasing populations, but serious overcrowding throughout the Depression era. The growth and overcrowding of SHNB demonstrates that Saskatchewan society utilized the hospital to fill their needs. This thesis analyses the patient ledgers of SHNB to determine what role mental hospitals played in Saskatchewan society during the Depression. Whether concerned for relatives with perceived mental illness, or apprehensive of their deviant behaviour, families were often the primary actors in initiating committal. Once within the walls of SHNB, patient labour was utilized to ensure both the treatment of the insane and the survival of the hospital. Lastly, SHNB also played a role in shaping Canadian society through the deportation and incarceration of unwanted elements. Through an analysis of patient ledgers, it is clear that SHNB was part of a complex set of strategies used by families, hospital staff and society to both house the insane and deviant and to provide treatment in hopes of returning the deemed ill to sanity.
Great Depression, medicine, psychiatry, mental illness, insanity
Master of Arts (M.A.)