Comments Posted by Witness

I totally agree with Lynne, that we are looking at what this art reflects. For those of us who have spent time with the mentally ill, it speaks deeply and reveals intricate, intimate things.

If you've never spent time with profoundly mentally ill or retarded people, I doubt you can truly connect to the abyss that often appears in their artwork. Standing on the outside of a hospital and looking at it is far different from being on the inside and looking out.
In reference to barry's note of the 9/18/07 interview on the El Peecho site, there's no doubt that residents of Pennhurst suffered terrible conditions and abuse by their keepers. The world is made up of all kinds of people, and they are found everywhere—even in places like Pennhurst.

I still say, however, that having been inside Pennhurst as a "guest" when the facility was still operational, caring for people who are mentally challenged and in an institutional setting is extremely difficult. Especially when the caregivers did not have adequate support from the state or the residents' families. I believe it takes very special people to do this work the way we think it should be done.

I had a young mentally retarded cousin in Pennhurst. I just learned this a week ago. I have little doubt that she had few or no visitors and suffered as many others did. It's appalling, for every person who ever had to live there. And now it's hit even closer to home for me.
Hey, barry, I lived in Coventryville next to the historic Dunn house, off of Rt. 23 about 2 miles west of Owen J. Roberts High School, the school I graduated from in 1975. How would I recall the name of the principal...when nobody ever paid attention to him anyway? I'm not fake...are you?
I grew up in the Pottstown area near Spring City. As a junior high school student, I first visited Pennhurst on a health class field trip. It seemed an inappropriate place for young teenagers to "learn," and, in fact, one of the boys in our group passed out cold when the place became too much for his sensibilities. Pennhurst was shocking simply as an institution. It was even more shocking to see groups of retarded and mentally ill people housed like this. I would visit Pennhurst two more times before it closed. A few years after my school visit to Pennhurst, my mother took a job there as a ward assistant. It was her job to watch over and care for the patients. Two times in the year or so she worked there, I accompanied her to the facility for reasons I cannot recall. I remember being approached by "Elvis," a patient who was intent on trying to charm me with his animal magnetism. While my mother had the psychological fortitude to deal with the daily, sometimes mundane but often disturbing realities of caring for institutionalized mentally ill patients, she eventually had to leave her job because of abuse she witnessed. She filed a complaint, but nothing significant came of it. The sheer helplessness and bizarre behavior of such human beings in such an environment makes them extraordinarily vulnerable. To be their caregiver demands an almost superhuman level of patience, compassion, alertness and sometimes physical strength. This is not work suited to those who simply need a paycheck, and that is where I think the disconnect lies. But, tell me, where would you find the number of people needed who also happened to possess the virtues to care for helpless people with integrity, to provide physical assistance with compassion, to nurture psychologically with respect? And to do it five days a week, no matter what. It's a tall order. Not many people could do it. I couldn't. And I thank God for those who can.