What better way to spend a nice sunny Sunday afternoon than by revisiting an abandoned mental hospital?
Larundel is currently being redeveloped… it will take a couple of years for the remaining buildings to be renovated for residential and commerical use; currently they are as trashed as ever.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Larundel was a mental hospital that opened in the 40s and was eventually closed for good in 1999. I recommend reading ‘Glimpses of the Past’ by Iliya Bircanin and Alex Short (the latter worked as the pharmacist at Larundel for many years). It gives a history of Larundel and it’s fellow psych hospitals Mont Park and Plenty. It’s more a general history of how the institutions came to be, going back to the 1880s; if you’re after stories about patients and their experiences at Larundel, you won’t find anything like that in this book.
I have heard mixed reports about what went on there… The hospital was open during a time where a lot of experiments were carried out in psych hospitals – some bad, some good. Most of what I’ve heard seems to be rumour, passed on like Chinese Whispers, because people really only want to know about disturbing tales. But there was definitely some groundbreaking work carried out there, such as the discovery of lithium as a treatment for bipolar mania by Dr. John Cade (watch ‘Troubled Minds: The Lithium Revoltion’ for more information on this).
Larundel, along with many other hospitals in the Western world in the 80s and 90s, shut down because deinstitutionalisation came into favour. Helping those with mental illness as outpatients, so that they could live a normal day-to-day life whilst still receiving treatment, was seen as the preferred method. However, I wonder just how many of those patients would have been better off living in a place like Larundel. How many of them ended up homeless or relapsing after Larundel closed because they couldn’t – or wouldn’t – look after themselves in the outside world? At least in a mental hospital they wouldn’t have to worry about being judged, or have to hide their illness.
I am still interested in hearing any stories from people who were once patients or who had relatives who were patients at Larundel.
x Kitten of Doom