Brattleboro Retreat marks its 175th anniversary

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(Host) This weekend, the Brattleboro Retreat marks its 175th anniversary.

And as VPR’s Lynne McCrea reports, since its beginning, the Retreat has been progressive in its treatment of people who need psychiatric care.

(McCrea)  Up until 1893, the Brattleboro Retreat was called the Vermont Asylum for the Insane.

It was founded by Anna Hunt Marsh, who set aside money in her will to establish the facility.

Dr. Rob Simpson is the president and CEO of the Retreat today.  He says Anna Hunt Marsh was very concerned about the treatment of the mentally ill.

(Simpson) In 1834, we were not very sophisticated about the mentally ill. We imagined that they were possessed by demons, or that they were very bad people. And we didn’t do always very nice things to them. So her whole goal, in her mind, was to chart the future. She really wanted to change the way mentally ill were treated. And she liked the concept of moral treatment. That people deserved to be treated with dignity.

(McCrea) Just this year, the Retreat launched two new treatment programs. One is for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender patients.

Simpson says the program offers many of the same services as those for heterosexual patients. But he says it also recognizes ‘the interplay of gender, stigma and society with other psychiatric issues’".

(Simpson) "So this gives a person a chance who has felt concern about the impact of their gender choice in society – whether they may have hidden it, may have been ostracized by it to have a chance to say ‘this has really affected me – this has made my depression worse. This has made my ability to recover from my bipolar disorder much more complex’. So that’s why we’re doing this program."

(McCrea)  A second program is specifically targeted for people in uniform -firefighters, police, EMTs, and corrections officers. Simpson says they have a higher than average incidence of depression and addiction than general society.

Dr. Simpson says it’s important that generalized psychiatric services continue to remain available, as well as the kinds of specialized treatment programs that Brattleboro Retreat offers.

For VPR news, I’m Lynne McCrea.


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