Special issue of The Quill, 1968

 Patient-Authored Newsletters

Over the years, some patients at Oak Ridge created their own newsletters to share their thoughts, opinions, and news both within the division and outside. These were printed in-house as part of the Typing and Printing Department within the Vocational Services area of the building.

The various newsletters created at Oak Ridge followed a similar format: they were typed and printed in-house and featured a mix of news stories, gossip, opinions, poetry, and drawings or cartoons. Earlier editions were generally penned anonymously by those patients involved while later editions took on a more activist tone and tended to include authorship.

The Quill

The Quill was a monthly newsletter published for several years by patients at Oak Ridge in the late 1960s. Its contributors estimated its distribution in 1968 at 800 copies that were made available beyond the Hospital.

Only one issue remains in the archival collection at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care. The remaining edition is labelled as a "Special Edition" and reads more like a guide to Oak Ridge than the traditional newsletter. The issue explains the various divisions of the Mental Health Centre, Penetanguishene in 1968 as well as the various programs and amenities available in Oak Ridge. It likewise includes detailed maps of the grounds and a layout of the wards.

It is possible that The Quill was the first patient-produced newsletter to be published at Oak Ridge. The Special Edition describes the Typing and Printing Department as "one of the newer departments in the hospital."     

The Seventh Circle

The Seventh Circle was published by patients at Oak Ridge in 1973-1974. No copies have been found in the archival collection but mention is made of the publication in a "Letter to the Editor" in the 1989 issue of NoBLE SHEET. In recalling the publication, the patient who penned the letter noted: "Strength was gathered from the production of the paper."

NoBLE SHEET

In July 1989 patients at Oak Ridge began publishing the cheekily titled newsletter NoBLE SHEET. The front page to the issue began by clearly laying out the intentions of the paper:

"This publication will be a periodical intended to provide patients with a forum for their views and offer a vehicle in which ideas may be shared."

The group also took on the more controversial policy that all articles would bear the name of their authors:

"No articles will be published where the author intends to remain anonymous. All articles will be published with the author's name."

And with that policy in place, the patients pulled no punches in their submissions. Articles were largely editorial in nature and presented strong opinions on the practices of Oak Ridge and of the mental health care system in general.

Contributing to Outside Publications

A handful of Oak Ridge patients wrote articles and op-ed pieces for external publications over the years. These included both the Toronto-based psychiatric patient-consumer-survivor publication Phoenix Rising as well as the local Penetanguishene and Midland area newspapers.

For example, a detailed opinion paper appeared in an issue of Phoenix Rising under the title: "Coverage or cover-up?" The article summarizes coverage Oak Ridge received in several of the major Toronto-area newspapers in 1988 and questions the views they present.

These contributions also led to editorials by psychiatric survivors from other institutions who supported the concerns of the men in Oak Ridge. See for example: 

Burstow, B. (1986). Oak Ridge: Before and After the Hucker report. Phoenix Rising, 6(2), 25-30. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatricsurvivorarchives.com/phoenix/phoenix_rising_v6_n2.pdf

Oak Ridge to be replaced - but by what? (1987). Phoenix Rising6(4), 35-37. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatricsurvivorarchives.com/phoenix/phoenix_rising_v6_n4.pdf

[Links to issues of Phoenix Rising are courtesy of the Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto]

Sharing their Stories

A number of patients at Oak Ridge were the subject of biographical or true-crime style books. These typically were written without the consent - or often the knowledge - of the individual patient and focused almost exclusively on the criminal acts for which they either were accused or convicted, depending on the case. Few of the texts from this genre make more than a passing mention of their time at Oak Ridge, using their transfer to the institution instead as an ending point to the account being told.

Autobiographies

A few patients undertook the task of writing their own life stories. Roger Caron, for example, shared his experiences of institutionalization in a memoir entitled Go-Boy! He described the process of writing as a "voyage of self-discovery" that had the benefit of "providing me with a sense of dignity and self-worth" (Caron, 1978, p. xiii).

His text takes the form of a diary or journal with Caron sharing the events of his life in chronological chunks. His words provide a rare glimpse into the life of a man who spent the majority of his life inside prisons, reformatories, and mental health institutions. Caron was awarded the Governor General's Award for English Language Non-Fiction 

By Jennifer L. Bazar

Page Last Updated: June 4, 2015


References

Burstow, B. (1986). Oak Ridge: Before and After the Hucker report. Phoenix Rising6(2), 25-30Retrieved from http://www.psychiatricsurvivorarchives.com/phoenix/phoenix_rising_v6_n2.pdf

Caron, R. (1978). Go-Boy! Memoirs of a life behind bars. Toronto, ON: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. 

Hardy, E. (1989). Coverage or cover-up? Phoenix Rising8(2), 11-12. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatricsurvivorarchives.com/phoenix/phoenix_rising_v8_n2.pdf

Oak Ridge to be replaced - but by what? (1987). Phoenix Rising6(4), 35-37. Retrieved from http://www.psychiatricsurvivorarchives.com/phoenix/phoenix_rising_v6_n4.pdf


To Cite this Page

Bazar, J. L. (2015). In their own words. In J. L. Bazar (Ed.), Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit. Retrieved from https://historyexhibit.waypointcentre.ca/exhibits/show/patients/own-words