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Public Health Perspectives on Postwar Mental Health: Gender, Housing, and Community Living in Kitimat, British Columbia, 1950-1960 Kelsey Lucyk, 1 Lindsay.

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Presentation on theme: "Public Health Perspectives on Postwar Mental Health: Gender, Housing, and Community Living in Kitimat, British Columbia, 1950-1960 Kelsey Lucyk, 1 Lindsay."— Presentation transcript:

1 Public Health Perspectives on Postwar Mental Health: Gender, Housing, and Community Living in Kitimat, British Columbia, Kelsey Lucyk, 1 Lindsay McLaren, 1 and Frank Stahnisch 1,2 1 Department of Community Health Sciences and 2 History University of Calgary

2 Outline 1.Background: postwar mental health 2.Case study: Kitimat, BC 3.Findings 4.Conclusions

3 BACKGROUND Postwar Mental Health

4 Postwar Mental Health, Changes in North American psychiatry and psychology –New population of patients –Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I) in 1952 –Shift from asylum to community-based care

5 WHO Definition of Health, 1946 “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” WHO. Preamble to the constitution of the World Health Organization. International Health Conference: Official Records of the World Health Organization. New York, 1946

6 CASE STUDY Kitimat, British Columbia

7 Kitimat, BC Research Question: How did the community of Kitimat, BC understand and experience mental health, at a time when explicit discussion of this topic was limited? Kitimat Vancouver © Google Earth 2013

8 Methods Qualitative content analysis of primary sources –Archival materials –Semi-structured interviews Thematic analysis re: “mental health” “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” (WHO 2011) Krippendorff K. Content Analysis: An introduction to its methodology. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, World Health Organization. Mental health: A state of well-being. October Available at:

9 The Kitimat Project Established 1953 Aluminum Company of Canada & Province of British Columbia Not a company town © Kitimat Museum & Archives 2013, Fritz Wurster Collection

10 Urban Planning Planners would design a town that could sustain itself by comprehensively meeting the needs of its residents Considered residents’ mental health “frustrated and cross children [that] drive their mothers crazy; cross wives [that] frustrate their husbands” Stein C, Mayer A and Whittlesey J. Kitimat: A New City. Architectural Forum 1954: © Kitimat Centennial Museum, bottom photo credit to Max Patzelt

11 Values and Ideals Women Feminine Submissive Delicate Homemakers Men Masculine Dominant Strong Breadwinners © Kitimat Centennial Museum Gleason M. Normalizing the ideal: Psychology, the school, and the family in post- World War II Canada, University of Waterloo, 1996.

12 FINDINGS Unmet expectations, Housing Shortages, Separated Families

13 Mental Health

14 Unmet Expectations Modern, suburban utopia vs. town under construction “I went to the door and opened it and saw only forest and only Sagimat [style] homes. I had a heavy weight in my heart and started crying— thinking, I see nothing that I recognize and no familiar faces around.” Worden W. Incredible new frontier. Saturday Evening Post 1957 Feb 9 pp36-52.

15 Unmet Expectations © Kitimat Centennial Museum

16 Housing Shortages prevented participation in the socially ideal family unit –Haphazard construction –Shared accommodation “…it must be mentally depressing to have to live in a house in which water streams down the inside walls…heightened by the fact that the house is brand new and is costing a lot of money.” Tucker. Letter to the Editor. Northern Sentinel 1955 Feb 3pp8.

17 Housing Shortages © Kitimat Centennial Museum Haphazard and Rushed Construction

18 Separated Families Consequence of housing shortages –families crowded or separated Letters to the Editor, September 15, 1955 in the Northern Sentinel: “It seems to me that there is more misery and mischief caused in Kitimat over shared housing, inadequate housing and families being separated because of no housing being available than through any other cause.” “I wonder who are the worst off… those as you might say camping at the townsite or those living hundreds of miles away and their Daddys living in camp, too far away to even visit for a weekend.” © Kitimat Centennial Museum

19 CONCLUSIONS

20 Conclusions Contribution to literature re: history of mental health Conclusions –Mental health requires consider of local circumstances –Unintended consequences of urban planning –Exemplify what can occur © Kitimat Centennial Museum


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