Sunday, July 6, 2014

Time for another bonfire?

On Halloween night, 1949, on the grounds of Anoka State Hospital, Minnesota Governor Luther Youngdahl lit a bonfire of straitjackets, cuffs, canvas mitts, and leather straps, all taken from the hospital.  Youngdahl also made a public statement condemning the use of physical restraints on patients with mental illnesses.

"By this action we say more than that we have liberated the patients from barbarous devices and the approach which those devices symbolized."

"By this action we say that we have liberated ourselves from witchcraft -- that in taking off mechanical restraints from the patients, we are taking off intellectual restraints from ourselves."

"By this action we say to the patients that we understand them -- that they need have no fears -- that those around them are their friends."

"By this action we say to the patients that we will not rest until every possible thing is done to help them get well and return to their families."

What a remarkable symbolic gesture.  It is hard to see this photo without contrasting it to the failure of the current Minnesota governor, Mark Dayton, to respond to the call for an investigation of psychiatric research abuse at the University of Minnesota.  Eight months have passed since Mike Howard delivered a petition signed by over 3,500 people to Dayton's office calling for an investigation. There has been no reply.

Maybe it is time for a bonfire at the Governor's Residence.

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