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Gracefully Insane: The Rise and Fall of America's Premier Mental Hospital Paperback – Jan 7 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (Jan. 7 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586481614
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586481612
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.1 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #192,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Everyone makes the same comment: It doesn't look like a mental hospital. Read the first page
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By donna hayduk on July 20 2014
Format: Paperback
Very good.
Thanks.
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Format: Paperback
Beam's "Gracefully Insane" is rich in anecdotal history, but poor in other areas. Makes for a light, enjoyable read, but Beam rarely teases out the interesting insights that arise from his excellent access to the inner workings of America's "Premier" mental hospital.
This book will make you think about the (troubled) history of psychiatry/ treatment of mental illness, and Beam's portrait of this institution caused me to shed no tears for the fall of this fabled refuge for blue blooded loons.
Reading interviews with "graduates", its hard not to question the assumptions that underlied McLean's very reasons for existence. Few of the individuals profiled within seem like they were ever a "danger to self or others". Indeed, when a rash of suicides hit McLean a couple of decades ago, the staff were singularly unprepared to cope. Perhaps this is because the "inmates" were not as bad off as one might suppose?
Makes an interesting companion piece for Goffman's "Asylums".
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Format: Hardcover
This book promises to depict the way in which caring of the mentally ill has changed over the last 150 years. I wish the author had kept his promise. Back when McLean was called the Boston Lunatic Asylum, life was a little different for the average schizophrenic patient. And the idea of tracing the development of psychiatry by way of a history of McLean is a great idea. Unfortunately, what we get instead is hodge-podge of Boston Brahmin gossip, architectural history, psychiatric theory, and mundane factoids. I was expecting anecdote, but I wanted revealing anecdote. For instance, Beam writes about all the McLean patients who had received lobotomies. But he never delves into how lobotomized patients acted or how they might have felt about the procedure. I would love to have known why old-time psychiatrists thought hydrotherapy was useful for depressed patients. Beam mentions hydrotherapy, but really doesn't do any more than skim the surface. I guess I wish the author had been someone with some background in mental health. As an aside, I thought it was interesting that the subtitle of the paperback ("Life and Death Inside America's Premier Mental Hospital") is different from that of the hardcover version ("The Rise and Fall of America's Premier Mental Hospital"). I remember when the book first came out that McLean administrators were unhappy with the hardcover title since it suggested that McLean was on the decline. Why would Beam have changed the name? I tend to think that the reasons had to do with selling more copies of his book rather than with any change of opinion on his part. If that is the case, then Beam is more than just a superficial writer, he is also a sell-out.
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Format: Paperback
GRACEFULLY INSANE is advertised as a narrative description of life inside McLean Hospital, "America's premier mental hospital". More accurately, perhaps, the volume is a superficial history of psychiatric care in the United States, or at least as practiced in the Boston area, using McLean as a backdrop.
Mental health care has come a long way from less enlightened times when, according to author Alex Beam, terrorizing patients into wellness was considered effective:
"One German asylum lowered patients into a dungeon filled with snakes." (My mother, a psychiatrist, once told me about a patient of hers who saw pink snakes on the ceiling. Hmmm, I wonder where Mom did her residency.)
The narrative is at its best when describing the evolution of 19th and 20th century methods of therapy: cold water dunking, bath treatments (hot air, electric light, vapor, salt, sitz, loofah), insulin coma, electroshock, metrazole shock, lobotomy, Freudian analysis, and psychopharmacology. Unfortunately, the author fleshes out the text by describing the experiences of specifically named individuals undergoing such cures, usually at McLean. It was then that my eyes began to glaze over and GRACEFULLY INSANE becomes almost a work of local interest since most of the inmates came from Boston's social upper crust, which regarded the hospital as a handy dumping ground for mentally challenged and inconvenient family members.
I was briefly re-invigorated when a 1948 sex scandal involving McLean's psychiatrist-in-chief and a nurse got the pair prosecuted on a Morals Charge (Oh, puhleeze!).
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Format: Paperback
3/06/03 Alex Beam's "Gracefully Insane" is a frightening example of "Let the Mentally Challenged" dream on (night time ,daytime) nightmares,et al ..as long as they're not shouting out loud and if they are expressing their intensity noisily ,that they are buffered from hearing anyone else who is responding similiarly . The ability of the Boston,Massachusettes's McLean Hospital(a teaching hospital of Harvard University) to provide all the amentities of life outside their walls helped those within their walls not to have to address their frailties and "Address the things they couldn't change" appropriately.
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