Can Cows Catch a Mental Illness?

October 10th is World Mental Health Day. I think the pandemic has hit hard. Anyone facing long term health conditions has been impacted. I faced my fears when denied surgery for thyroid cancer because the bed I needed was needed by a covid-19 patient. The surgical floor was closed and used as surge beds. This is my chance to talk about mental health, how we need to look after it and how important it is to talk about things when one is struggling. With cups of coffee and phone calls I felt surrounded by people who understood and were there to listen to me. The roller coaster of emotions, ups and downs, maybe even a flip upside down and over again, at least that’s the story the sheets told each morning as I untangled myself. There is a happy ending to this part of my struggle; surgery happened and I am recovering happily. I listened to calming babbling brook meditations, dropped my shoulders and unclenched the jaw. I learned to break some rules I had set for myself. I asked for help and arrived at a healthier mental place. And then I sought my favorite pastime of researching the ancestors and relatives and found this story.

After cancerous thyroid removed October 8, 2021

The year was 1885. A proposed site for a new Protestant Mental Health Hospital was being proposed for Verdun, Montreal. The farmers that owned surrounding land rose up in protest in fear that their livestock may catch mental illness from the patients. Really? It’s maybe not that fetched then to think people think covid shots will harm them, the government can trace them or an anti-scientific political agenda is out to reset their lives. Maybe someday the unvaxxed will read history and say “Really”? “People thought that really”? For me it is still too easy to dismiss someone else’s decisions when I don’t understand their day-to-day challenges they face; I just pray that challenge wouldn’t be covid related. If I could, I’d ask cousin George, but he died in 1983.

The idea for a “Protestant Hospital for the Insane” was founded in 1881 and became the most progressive mental health institution in Quebec. It was not administered by a religious institution and depended on public generosity, volunteers and resources from the community. Headley Farm was purchased, in 1887, 110 acres, for $108,170. The farm provides most of the food for patients who by 1890 there were 140 patients. In the next 20 years, pavilions were built and one was named Reed Pavilion. In 1946, the hospital became affiliated with McGill University and became a teaching hospital. In the 50’s, a revolutionary breakthrough and research with antipsychotic medications gave new lives to those considered incurable. In 1965 the Hospital was renamed The Douglas Hospital. It is recognized for its quality of services and a leader in the field of mental health research. Hope and recovery and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness would make those protesting farmers feel pretty stupid today?

If you go to the emergency entrance today at Douglas Hospital, you enter through Reed Pavilion. It is named after Dr. George Ernest Reed L.M.C.C. my second cousin once removed on my father’s side.

Douglas Hospital

George was born in 1903.

William and Alice Reed with Florence and George Ernest Reed

George was born to parents William Charles Henry Reed and Alice Maud Clarke and the grandson of Leander Gersham Reed who made soda pop famous and Eliza Jane Waddell who in a previous blog sadly walked off the wharf and drowned. Eliza Jane was a 1/2 aunt to my grandfather, Gordon Waddell. Dr. Reed graduated from the University of Toronto in 1926, and was medical Superintendent at Verdun Protestant Hospital from 1947-1957. He was assistant Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University from 1943-1957, a consultant in psychiatry for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. He was certified in Psychiatry and Neurology and was on many boards.

George Ernest Reed

He died in 1983 at the age of 81. He married twice the first to Grace and they lived on the grounds of the hospital. Secondly he married his cousin, Leila Viola (Cy) Reed. who would also be my second once removed cousin.

Leila Viola Reed daughter of Edward Derocke and Leila Maude Muller Reed.

Imagine his excitement at teaching brilliant minds, Dr. Reed was there when his fellow doctor first used chlorpromazine and reduced patients sufferings; was there when imipramine for the treatment of depression was first used. The hospital had housing for 1200 inpatients while he was Superintendent. George would discharge a number of psychotic patients returning them to community life. Before he died he would see advances in buildings for the needs of children and adolescents, a community mental health clinic and divisions for aging and Alzheimer disease, and research into mood, anxiety, impulse and schizophrenia disorders.

I’ll end with this quote by Lisa Olivera, “Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to it do it alone.” Drop those shoulders and pick up the phone and give someone a call.

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