PILLARS OF MADNESS: A HISTORY OF AMERICAN PSYCHIATRY
A co-production of FRESKO Imageworks & Oh, Penny! Pictures
FRESKO Imageworks, Inc. and Oh, Penny! Pictures, LLC. presents PILLARS OF MADNESS, an eight-part documentary film series about the evolution of psychiatry in America. In 1843, the American nation made its first attempt, of many, to answer the question of how to properly care for the mentally ill. Our story begins in Central New York in the Mohawk Valley, the site of the New York State Lunatic Asylum at Utica. The construction of the hospital marks a convergence of medicine, philosophy, politics, science and engineering . The asylum, dubbed “Old Main” would be known to the medical profession and to historians as the “model institution”.
“Old Main” was widely known as an achievement of public health infrastructure, a centerpiece of the New York economy, an institution at the forefront of cutting edge treatments for the mentally ill and the birthplace of the western world’s foremost authoritative publication on psychiatric disorders, THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY (formerly THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF INSANITY).
Today, the shuttered facility and sprawling campus, with its imposing picturesque gothic architecture, serve as a relic of a bygone era and a venue of cultural curiosity. While the asylum’s public image in its earlier years was testament of a great and compassionate society, the place holds a darker history, one where experimental treatments and limited understanding of the human brain left many in its care to descend into the depths of human suffering.