Voices from Central State: Online Supplement

Click on the image above for an online supplement to our Fall 2016 event series, Voices from Central State, which spotlighted the patient perspective on life at Indiana's flagship mental institution, Central State Hospital (1848-1994).  Here you'll find some examples of writings by patients from throughout the hospital's history.

We're currently planning a continuation of the Voices project, an initiative to gather stories from people with connections to Central State Hospital, including former patients, workers, neighbors, and families.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Elizabeth Nelson at

Lobotomy: Intentions, Procedures, Effects: Online Supplement

September 3, 2015-November 28, 2015Anatomical Museum

For most of us, the idea of lobotomy triggers revulsion. But what were the intentions behind it? Why did it become such a widespread psychiatric treatment in the mid-20th century?

Indiana: Intersections of Mass Incarceration and Mental Illness: Online Supplement

April 11, 2017-May 31, 2017 at the Central Branch, Indianapolis Public Library

This exhibit is part of the Humanities Action Lab's nationwide States of Incarceration Project, and was designed by students at Indiana University, Purdue University, Indianapolis, in partnership with the Indiana Medical History Museum and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

In the early 1800s, Americans opened hospitals to care for people with mental illness, removing patients from their communities for treatment into often overcrowded hospital wards. Indiana’s first mental hospital, Central State, opened in 1848. This facility’s 1994 closure was part of a nationwide process called deinstitutionalization that began in the 1960s. Policy makers, politicians, and psychiatrists worked intensively to create community-based mental health care. However in Indiana, like most of the country, these facilities were inadequate to the need.

Today, encounters between people with mental illness and law enforcement result in more people with mental illness receiving care in correctional facilities than in state hospitals. The stress and isolation of incarceration often causes people’s mental health to deteriorate. Policies including mental health courts, which Indianapolis advocates pioneered, divert people with mental illness from correctional facilities. Improving conditions in prisons and jails and providing treatment upon release could break the cycle.

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