Upon looking at the Trans-Allegheny Asylum, you may notice the staggering clock tower that stands at 200 feet tall that comes from the center of the building. It is a monumental structure, the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, it is 242,000 square feet that is divided over four floors, it is also 1,296 feet long and has 921 windows and 906 doors. The walls are two-and-a-half feet thick, thick enough to muffle any screams on the other side of the wall.
The summer of 1979, bands such as Bad Company, Kansas, Cheap Trick, and Styx were all popular and on heavy rotation on the radio. Disco music was becoming a hit among teens around the country. One girl, who we will call Tasha, was going to be a senior in high school. Her parents were divorced and she was alone, none of her family seemingly wanted her around. This dragged hard on her and she didn't feel strong or let alone happy. She lived with a family that she baby sat for, we'll refer to them as the Bakers. They made her feel as if she was one of their own kids. She worked at a theater, walking about two or three miles every day to work on one of the busiest streets in her town. In her early childhood, she was compared to her sister by others, they called her sister prettier and smarter than her. Her siblings would beat on her, pick on her, and lie about her to others. Her mother didn't take lightly to it, and resorted to babying her, this would make the bullying she received from her siblings worse, but she knew she meant well, as any mother would.
Schizophrenia is a word that you may have heard before, or perhaps you've heard the shortened version of it: Schizoid. You may know the basic or shortened definition of the disorder, such as: "Hearing voices, acting irrationally, and being paranoid." There may be some truth to this definition that loosely gets thrown around, but schizophrenia is a complex mental illness that can interfere with a person's ability to think clearly, manage their emotions, make personal decisions, and even relate to other people around them. It can occur at any age, however, the onset tends to begin in the late teens or early-20s for men and late-20s or early-30s for women. A person younger than 12 or older that 40 rarely get diagnosed with schizophrenia. So, let's take a deep dive into what this mental illness is.
The Trenton Psychiatric Hospital was founded in 1848 by Dorothea Lynde Dix, who was a mental health advocate. It was the first hospital to take on the Kirkbride Plan, this plan promoted patient privacy and to showcase a welcoming and naturally lit environment. Dr. Henry Cotton was named the hospital's medical director in 1907, at the time he seemed like a perfect fit for the hospital. He however instituted occupational therapy programs and went on to eliminate mechanical restraints that were used to subdue patients.