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The Child and Adolescent Unit, 1967

The unit, located in Cottage 5, opened on February 6, 1967 by Dr. Donald Ross Guun, the superintendent, after fourteen beds were vacated in the women’s ward. Cottage 5 was built in 1892 and contained single occupancy rooms, since it was designed to house chronically ill patients and mentally ill prisoners. It consisted of both in-patient and out-patient service. The latter had twenty beds, divided between Ward H: fourteen beds, and the Cumberland House (the former residence of the superintendent): six beds. The patients were both male and female, aged between five and sixteen.

Cumberland House, May 2011.

At first, the admittance was restricted to female clients, who were between twelve and seventeen. The services offered treatment for all types of psychiatric and behavioural disorders. It was the first specialized adolescent treatment unit in Ontario, treating children and teenagers suffering from depression and schizophrenia among other mental disorders.

The staff of the unit consisted of a single psychiatrist, who at the same time fulfilled the role of the director. Psychologists, child care workers, as well as a social worker were also employed as part of the team. Most of the child care workers were students, and the hospital operated a School for Child Care Workers within the unit.

Cottage 5, May 2011.

The training involved a two-year course, and at the end of it the students were eligible to receive a diploma in child care, granted by the Ontario Department of Health. Dr. Ian Bond established the course because he believed that the number of staff should be double that of patients. The first group of students consisted of twenty-eight people, who were mostly eighteen and nineteen, although there was no age limit specified in the enrolment process, since as Dr. Bond explained, “often the temperament of an old woman has to offer is needed.” All of the underage patients were required to attend a special school located in the Cumberland House, whose education was under the supervision and guidance of three elementary teachers and one high school instructor. It was operated directly by the Etobicoke Board of Education.

The unit was affiliated with the Hospital for Sick Children and had a close working relationship with the speech therapy department, which was also located within the hospital.

The out-patient service served the former Borough Etobicoke and Port Credit, staffed with a part-time psychiatrist a social worker, and psychologists. It was designed to operate as a community crisis intervention service for children and adolescents up to the age of eighteen. Older clients were allowed treatment if they were still attending school.

A few years later, most likely due to demand, the services of the unit were enhanced with the addition of a general practitioner and social workers, and the bed capacity was increased to thirty-two, with additional daycare patients.

The staff was trained in developing basic communication and interpersonal skills. They were instructed to be therapeutic with the patients, while assisting them in coping with everyday situations. It appears that they acted the substitute role for temporary parents: their entire shift was spent with the patients, first greeting them in the morning, followed by eating breakfast with them, helping them prepare for school, etc. The staff also organized indoor and outdoor activities, which included field trips and camping.

The unit was organized into a reward system. A newly admitted patient would start on level one. A good behaviour and progress in treatment were rewarded with sports, movies or a permission to date. When the patient achieved level four, he or she was considered ready to leave and return to his or her family if he or she has one, in which case, he or she would be released to a group home or a hostel. However, it was also possible to depreciate from one level to another during the course of the patient’s stay at the hospital.

Cottage 5, May 2011.

There is something revealing about the way in which Dr. Bond referred to the patients suffering from being “delinquent individuals” and “psychopaths:” “We are slaves to our culture, these people aren’t. Only a minority of them are violent, mostly the outcome is an attitude of not wanting to submit. They act on emotion or impulse.” This directly reflects the attitude of the people responsible for the treatment of the patients inside the unit: they were seen as outcasts, who with the right amount of care and discipline could be rehabilitated back into society.

It is not hard to imagine that life inside the Child and Adolescent Unit was anything but pleasant. A common re-occurring memory shared by several patients who generously shared their stories on this web site is that of the quiet rooms. The staff reserved the right to throw any patient into one of them, regardless of the type of misbehaviour on the patient ’s part. It appears that even a minor case of misdemeanor, such as talking back to the staff, was often enough.

Related

Several former patients of the Child and Adolescent Unit have kindly shared their experiences on this site:

References

“Disturbed Children Need Special Help.” [No author or date specified]
Hansen R. C. “Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Orientation Package.” Etobicoke: Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, c. 1972.
“New Supervisor Announces Psychiatric Care for Children at Lakeshore Hospital This Fall.” The Advertiser August 3, 1967: 1–2.

All primary sources retrieved from the Archives for the History of Canadian Psychiatry and Mental Health Services, January 30 and April 21–22, 2005.

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