chapter  12
15 Pages

Out of the asylum: from restraints to freedom?


Susanna Kaysen’s narrative account of being put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital after one session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before epitomizes what could routinely happen in 1967. Boston’s McLean, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, is a psychiatric hospital renowned for its famous clientele – Sylvia Plath, who is said to have captured some memories of her time spent within McLean’s walls in The Bell Jar, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, Anne Sexton and Ray Charles. Over the years, McLean had developed arguably a glamorous reputation – for a psychiatric hospital. But Susanna Kaysen’s lived experience, or what Beresford (2004) calls, ‘experiential knowledge’, at McLean both presented and challenged the management of mental distress, the infringement of individual liberty, the validity of compulsory treatment and other forms of coercion.