Monday night at The Mill, author and historian Barbara Taylor gave a fascinating talk based on her experience of mental illness and her book ‘The Last Asylum’
We had a full house at The Mill as people came to hear what Barbara had to say. She spoke of her own mental health history, including periods of being very unwell and spending time in what was Friern Hospital, formerly known as Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. This hospital closed in 1993 but during its lifetime saw tens of thousands people pass through its doors, including Taylor in the late 80s, early 90s.
On reading from her book we heard about her experiences of psychoanalysis with ‘V’ – something she described as ‘very painful’, saying she ‘didn’t handle it well… relying heavily on alcohol and pills’, and it was through this painful breakdown that she ended up in Friern. Taylor also attended a day hospital and day centre, a support system she relied heavily upon at the time. She then lost her home and moved into a hostel for women with mental health issues. Taylor continued with psychoanalysis for a long time and attributes her recovery to this process. One she describes as a ‘ferocious affair’.
Taylor’s book ‘The Last Asylum’ charts the rise and demise of the asylum history in Britain. A fascinating story of changing perceptions and treatments of mental health over the years. She refers to her time at Friern as something that was vital in providing the support she needed and ends asking whether she would ‘make it today’ in the current mental health system without these institutions.
A lively Q&A followed her presentation and a huge thank you to everyone who took part. A video of her talk can be watched on our YouTube channel.