Historic wall reveals stories of Ontario's first psychiatric hospital

    Voices from the Wall: A photo exhibit

    TORONTO, Oct. 10 /CNW/ - In 1860, patients of the Provincial Lunatic
Asylum - as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) was then known -
helped to build a brick wall that would conceal them and their lives from the
surrounding world for more than one hundred years. Today, the wall at CAMH's
Queen Street West Site is both a monument and emotional manuscript to the
lives lived at Ontario's oldest psychiatric hospital.
    This history is commemorated in Voices from the Wall, a striking exhibit
of images by photographer Tom Lackey on display at the Lennox Gallery,
12 Ossington Avenue, from Thursday October 25 through 28, 12 noon - 5 p.m.
Tuesday October 23 from 12 noon - 5pm will be reserved for members of the
    Recorded on many of the bricks are dates, names, words and symbols that
carry the raw emotion and darkest thoughts of generations of former patients.
Lackey, who began his work documenting the wall brick by brick three years
ago, was astonished to find his vision of the wall has changed as much as the
hospital it surrounds.
    "At first I saw the wall as a mere structure, but as I examined it,
people and their stories began to emerge - some of hope, others of pain and
despair - but each one an insight into the lives and human experiences of the
patients who lived in the asylum."
    More than 260 different inscriptions were found on the 2230 foot-long
wall "The insights we gain from the wall are not always pleasant, but they are
startling, and they speak to the deep need for understanding of those with
mental illness," said Dr. Paul Garfinkel, CAMH President and CEO.
    The wall is being restored as part of CAMH's major redevelopment of its
Queen Street West site into an urban village, integrating new state-of-the-art
hospital facilities into the fabric of a vibrant neighbourhood and artistic
community. Patients built the original wall with their unpaid labour, and
today CAMH is taking a different approach to making the repairs to this
heritage structure. CAMH has partnered with Colonial Masonry, the Brick and
Allied Craft Union of Canada, Local 2 and Eastern Construction to create an
employment apprenticeship opportunity for a small number of its clients to
learn construction craftsmanship, including repairing the heritage wall and
being paid to do so.
    "The patient-built wall has been alive with mad people's history for
nearly 150 years", said Geoffrey Reaume, Psychiatric Survivor Archives of
Toronto co-founder and associate professor in Critical Disability Studies,
York University. "Silent no more, these old bricks help to reveal how
psychiatric patients have always sought to express themselves when few were
willing to listen. The question remains: are we prepared to listen today?"
    Dr. Garfinkel said: "For us at CAMH, the wall represents our history, and
serves to remind us of the stigma our clients still face every day, and that
we must all work to overcome."

    The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's leading
addiction and mental health teaching hospital. Integrating clinical care,
scientific research, education, policy development and health promotion, CAMH
transforms the lives of people impacted by mental health and addiction issues.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange interviews please contact Michael
Torres, Media Relations, CAMH at (416) 595-6015

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