100 Years of Psychiartry at the University of Michigan
100 Years of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan
The people who would have been treated by psychiatrists
in 1906 were very ill, and their families were unable to care for them at home.
If patients had not yet been judged to be insane, their family members
sometimes wrote to psychiatrists, such as Dr. Albert Barrett at the University
of Michigan, to ask for help.
Patients who were treated in the first half of the 20th
century would probably have either been committed by a judge to a state
hospital or temporarily admitted to the State Psychopathic Hospital (SPH) at
the University of Michigan.
Those patients at the SPH would have been evaluated and treated over weeks to
months, and then either released or sent to a state hospital.
The State Psychopathic
Hospital was founded in 1906 by the
state legislature as an evaluation and referral center for the state mental
hospital system. The SPH had about 40 beds, and the average length of stay was
about four months. The staff at the SP also performed brain pathology services
for the remaining mental hospitals in the state.
The original building was located at the intersection of
Catherine and Clark Streets in Ann Arbor
(not connected to the medical hospital).
The staff at the SPH was quite small, and consisted of a
superintendent (Barrett, front right), an assistant physician (far left),
several nurses, a pathologist, and an assistant for neurological cases.
The SPH was governed by a Board of Trustees, consisting
of four representatives from the state asylums and four from the University of
Michigan Board of Regents. Patients who were "afflicted with abnormal
mental states but were not insane" could be treated, as well as voluntary
patients and those who had already been judged insane by the probate court.
Residents in Psychiatry
Physicians who wanted training in psychiatry in the first
half of the 20th century worked in an apprentice-type relationship with
supervising physicians in hospitals. At the SPH, residents lived in the
building and took care of all medical and psychiatric problems that arose with their patients. The expectation was that they devote all of their time to the
In 1912, Frankwood Williams joined the department and
told his chairman, Dr. Barrett, that he was planning to get married. Barrett wrote
to him and explained that his upcoming marriage would cause great disruption in
the running of the institution. Barrett told Williams that he was not allowed
to have his wife live in Ann Arbor
and would only be permitted to leave the institution to visit her once a month.
She was allowed to visit at SPH one Sunday a month. Williams survived his
residency, and went on to become the Medical Director for the National
Association for Mental Hygiene.
The Pontiac State
Hospital was founded in the middle
of the 19th century and accepted patients from the neighboring region. Pontiac
State had close relationships with
the University of Michigan
and medical Students often acted as physicians at Pontiac
State for extra money.
Assistant physicians from Pontiac
State (and other state facilities)
obtained additional psychiatry training from staff at the SPH. The assistant
physicians for the state hospitals would spend their month of vacation in Ann
Arbor learning more psychiatry.
Between the late 1930s and the late 1950s, a number of
new facilities were constructed to house the ever-increasing scope of the
University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry. In 1937, the Neuropsychiatric
Institute was built to replace the crumbling State
In 1948, a Veterans' Readjustment
Center was built to treat service
men returning from World War II who had on-going psychiatric needs.
In 1955, the Mental Health Research Institute was created
to house a multidisciplinary approach to psychiatric problems from the
molecular to the sociological level.
In 1956, a Children's Psychiatric Hospital was built that
promised state-of-the-art psychiatric care and research for children.
This exhibit was curated by Dr. Laura Hirshbein, a
psychiatrist at the University of Michigan,
in coordination with the Washtenaw County Historical Society's Museum on Main
Street. She will present a talk on "The
Changing Face of Mental Illness in Washtenaw County" on Sunday, October
22, 2006, at 2:00 PM. The Open House will be from 12-4 on that day.
This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Impressions.