“Asylum”

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Bridge

This story, published in Aeon, about a hospital at Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole, in southern France during WWII, has some lessons for us today. According to author Ben Platts-Mills. the story of Saint-Alban “…shows us the roles that institutions can play, both good and bad, in fighting or reinforcing everyday fascism, and reveals how our attitudes towards madness are an index for our beliefs about human potential as a whole.” He writes that what made this hospital different was “…mutualism – this inclusive vision of antifascist practice, the ability to imagine patients not as passive objects but as agents in their own destiny – that marked the difference between Saint-Alban and the other asylums in France, where so many people died.”  He writes, “Nothing mandates that psychiatric hospitals must imprison, isolate and mistreat the people that use them. Saint-Alban shows us that they can be places of hope, of bridge-building, and of flourishing creativity.” While some readers may take exception to his assertion that psychiatric hospitals are not mandated to “imprison, isolate and mistreat people,” others may take him to mean that we should have more places like the present-day Soteria Houses.  You can read the full article here.