The facility closed in 1993 and so had been vacant for two years when I took a tour. One could still feel the desperation and melancholy within the walls. To this day, I have these mental images of that day: the bucolic setting against the backdrop of the bars on the windows; rows and rows of gray doors; institutional sinks, the beautiful architectural style; and the energy that pounded throughout that place. Over a thousand graves are unmarked on that hill and thousands more stories untold.
I left school at the end of the summer to begin my first year internship in a big city hospital. I was assigned to the child/adolescent unit, a modern day psychiatric institution. I worked as a family therapist and my job was to guide parents through the bewildering terrain of having a child who was ill enough to be psychiatrically hospitalized. The average stay for a patient was under two weeks. So, some things have changed. Some have not. You can still see terror on a child's face when the door automatically shuts on a locked unit. At the time, you could still hear screams from restraints although I understand that is changing. I have recommended hospitalization many times during my career. It is absolutely necessary when one is spiralling out of control and can't stay safe. I'm not biased against a hospital stay, in fact I think it is often the ultimate act of courage and resilience.
Still, there is a price our most vulnerable and at times,most radical citizens have paid. I wanted to go back to Northampton and take a look around, take some pictures and mostly just honor the people who lived and died there. Sadly, I found out today, that the Northampton State Hospital was demolished several years ago, ostensibly to make room for a multi-use housing complex.
Today, the land stands vacant. I don't know if the souls that roamed there the day I visited have found peace.
Our prayers tonight should be for them.