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Photographs from the Psychiatric Hospital of Cleveland in 1946

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Some years ago, the psychiatric hospitals were strange and disturbing, places of pain and suffering, and almost always of terror for the patients. Jerry Cooke and Mary Delaney Cooke, husband and wife, carried out a photo shoot at the Cleveland Psychiatric Hospital in 1946, documenting the situation of the internees and their sufferings, which was purchased by LIFE magazine in the same year.

The article was used to make known the conditions of detention of the institution, a first example used to oblige those responsible for these health facilities to organize better hospitals. The piece was titled “Bedlam”, which in English rises to the meaning of “Asylum”, and which is also the first name of the London psychiatric hospital “Bethlem Royal Hospital”. When the article was published, public opinion reacted in an appalled manner.

Cleveland Psychiatric Hospital in 1946

The Americans were shocked to see some inmates (because it is impossible to define them in any other way) to wander the corridors naked, while others threw themselves into the corners to dwell, or locked in bed and in the straitjacket by the nurses. As result of the article, many patients were kept at home by families, so as not to force them into a life of suffering in US psychiatric hospitals.

A man in a wheelchair looks out the window.
A patient is left on a bench after being locked in a straitjacket.
Two men look out from some windows in a psychiatric ward
A barefoot patient leaves the group in one of the common rooms.
A patient suffering from abstinence hides head in her hands.
Some patients sit down to eat inside the Hospital.
Nurses keep a patient struggling to get out of bed.
Some men peer through the barred windows.
A man with a straitjacket in isolation.
A patient painting with fingers.
Some forgotten patients are left to sit in the hospital corridors.
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