Artefacts: Saskatchewan – Self-Guided
Timing: 15 Minutes
Mode: In-class; Online
The following texts and sets of audio commentaries and primary historical documents allow students to investigate the ideas behind deinstitutionalization in Saskatchewan. These self-guided resources are well suited for flipped classroom use with an in-class or online discussion or learning activity. Working in class or online, instructors and learners can select resources that suit the time available and a geographical and topical focus that is of interest.
Ask students to use the following themes to guide their exploration of these artefacts:
- The shift from institutional to community mental health
- Economic and social marginalization
- Relevance and impact of cost-reduction policies
- Underdeveloped community mental health supports
- Paternalism, power inequalities, professional hierarchies
- Psychiatric survivor movement
- Community engagement and input
- Policy developed by service user
Jayne Whyte is a historian, a writer, an activist with the Canadian Mental Health Association, and a long-term user of mental health services in Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan began exploring the idea of community mental health under Premier Tommy Douglas in the 1950s, when Jayne Whyte was a teenager. The Saskatchewan Plan, as the first of these linked articles details, proposed to divide the province into eight administrative regions, with the intention that each would develop a comprehensive set of local mental health centers and supports. Fiscal concerns about the cost of the old mental health institutions are mentioned, but more space is given to presenting a set of core values about decreasing the stigma surrounding mental health and the psycho-social rehabilitation of mental health patients. The second article was written by three Regina-based architects tasked with the work of envisioning how such reforms would take physical form.
The Saskatchewan Plan is a tale of promising mental health policy that was abandoned before it could become practice. Abandoned when it became clear that neither the federal government nor the medical community would support a model based on care by salaried physicians working in government facilities, the prairie province instead followed an aggressive policy of deinstitutionalization and cost-reduction in mental health services. From 1963 to 1970, under this agenda, the patient population at the province’s two large psychiatric hospitals plummeted, but much of the community supports envisioned by the creators of the original plan remained undeveloped. Jayne Whyte reflects on the early plans and what actually took place on the ground.
Listen to Jayne Whyte consider the gap between the promise of early policy initiatives in community mental health in the prairie province and the harsher realities of the system that she has encountered as a mental health patient.