A Bushel of Shoes, 1969

9 05 2011

Superintendent Brooks with a bushel of shoes, 1969.

On September 15, 1969, Dr. Dean K. Brooks, then superintendent of the Oregon State Hospital, gave a speech before the Association of Medical Superintendents of Mental Hospitals at a meeting in Houston, Texas.  In it he described an experience while visiting a mental health facility on the East Coast that affected his outlook on institutions across the country.  While visiting a ward, he stumbled across a basket of shoes.  Women living on the ward were required to take off their shoes at the end of the day and put them in the basket.  The shoes could then be collected on a first come first serve basis the next morning.

This bushel of shoes represented to Dr. Brooks a dehumanization of the people living on that ward.  As he writes:

Dehumanization can be defined as the divestment of human capacities and functions and the process of becoming or the state of being less than a man.  It does not occur exclusively in mental institutions.  It also occurs in nursing homes, correctional institutions, Indian reservations, colleges, the military–in any situation where one person is responsible for making day-to-day decisions about the comfort and welfare of others.

This experience led to the creation of a patient, staff and community task force that identified 25 areas of concern at the Oregon State Hospital in the areas of:  clothing, dental hygiene, bathing, toileting, grooming, sleeping, recreation, eating, housekeeping, patients’ money and personal possessions, maintenance, aesthetics, living space, and admission and discharge routines. 

Dr. Brooks published his speech in Hospital and Community Psychiatry the journal of the American Psychiatric Association.  The full story of the Bushel of Shoes can be read here: http://oregonstatehospital.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/a-bushel-of-shoes-dean-brooks-md.pdf




2 responses

15 05 2011

The current information, today surrounds the definition of dehumanization is astounding next to its meaning many years ago. Dehumanizing is a form of rape today, being labeled for something you have no control over. Similar to that of someone calling another “stupid”, “repulsive” or “gross”. Someone wants to express a feeling of love, and gives a brief description of that love, and for some reason, the other finds the person “repulsive” is a hurtful word to use. It is a feeling of love that just happened. Sadly enough the person saying these sad words are in denial. Depending on who says it also is important. Is it a loved one? family member? or like a family member? Imagine if your mother or father came to you and said you are “repulsive”, You would probably want to know why. but worse than that if it is someone who you honestly love it will probably “hurt you” very much. Chances are if your love is “real”, you can forgive. Hoping for an apology one day.
Going back to “the Bushel of Shoes story” and Dean, who wrote the story. Yes, I have read it, as you gave me the story many months ago. It is terrible to be without shoes, proper nutrition, hygiene and the physical things in life, and when I studied history years ago, basic needs are food, a place to live, and clothing. I clothed, fed and offered my home to many children when in my care, so I know how important those needs are, and so is holding, cuddling and closeness when someone is in deep mental pain. It goes as far as holding someone close so that the mental pain disappears, if they are wanting and needing it from you. It is a form of healing. I have read stories that the fear that it could be physically improper, especially when there has been fears of being too “personal”. I think that comfort and love is the word here, and whatever it takes to take him/her out of their pain, or depression. There may not be anything really “learned” from it, but if they are trying to survive I dont think it really matters, but overcoming their immediate pain is important first. In reading “The Bushel of Shoes”, years ago, which I thought was well written by you, and I like it very much. And I also see how the word “dehumanizing” means so much more today than it ever did. When I give away my no longer needed shoes and clothing in good condition, I also think of the story you gave me and that very special meaning. It is important to feel good about who and what you are in life, and having enough to take care of yourself is equally important. Including good food, nutrition, clothing and of course “shoes”. Remember the “Christmas Shoes” cd I gave you? I used to wear bells on my shoes and they would “ring” down the hallway during the “holidays”. It was one of my ways of supporting your “Bushel of Shoes” story.

7 10 2011

Western Oregon University, will present a gallery of my artwork entitiled “Hidden Transparencies”, and the importance of “remaining aware” of those who havemental disabilities, namely, mental illnesses, addictions, and other psychological illnesses. We wish to recognize the New Oregon State Hospital Museum (to open in May of 2012), and that people with mental issues should never be ignored. As part of the museum, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” is brought to our attention as this movie not only describes those with mental incapacities, but also is a statement that the museums’ existence to be a reminder that mental illnesses exist in our community and should not be overlooked. The exhibit opens in January 2012 through March 2012. Come and view my artwork at the Hamersley Library, and learn about how mental disabilities have become displaced thoughts of how we view those with mental issues. Written by the Artist: Judy Wong

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