Backstory and Context
Founded on February 25, 1811, McLean Hospital was granted by the Massachusetts Legislature for the “Massachusetts General Hospital Corporation.” It was intended to treat both physical and mental illness with two different facilities.
At first, it was known as “Asylum for the Insane”. The patient population quickly outgrew its resources. The Asylum was chosen to be a place for “moral treatment” because of its geographical location as well as its care of patients. During the 17th century, many people with physical disabilities were assumed to also have cognitive disabilities, thus inducing treatment as though their cognitive abilities were next to none. At the time, however, McLean was considered one of the best treatment facility for people with disabilities.
When the Asylum officially opened in 1818, it was the first in New England and the fourth in the nation to treat mental illnesses. In 1892, at Dr. Cowles’ request, the McLean Asylum was renamed the McLean Hospital and transferred its patients from Somerville to Belmont. As the pioneer of Boston’s health care hospital and the flagship hospital of Harvard Medical School, McLean has seven satellite programs that help more patients. As psychiatric illness is a major cause of disabilities, McLean is dedicated to provide various resources for people who are struggling with mental illness.
At the time of its opening, McLean was considered one of the best treatment facility for people with disabilities. McLean, the oldest hospital in the Northeast, has historically been ahead of its time in terms of treating people with disabilities simply due to its distinction as aristocratic and serving mainly wealthy families. Famous “inmates” (generally after conditions improved) include: Sylvia Plath (author of The Bell Jar) in 1953, Susanna Kaysen (author of Girl, Interrupted in 1960s), Anne Sexton in the 1970s, and Steven Tyler in 1985. The Bell Jar and Girl, Interrupted are both written about McLean and the authors’ experiences there.
The hospital now conducts scientific researches that advance people’s understanding of the disease and searches for better treatments. Also, McLean offers the Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital Adult Psychiatry Residency Training Program, which is a top program cultivating young people in the field to develop their professional skills. It also helps the public education of the psychiatric illness.
Newell, Keith. History of Boston and Beyond. 03/26/2017. 09/29/2018. https://robertallisonhistory.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/a-history-of-mclean-hospital-by-keith-newell/.
Poets.Com. . 09/29/2018. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/listing/mclean-hospital-belmont.