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Star Tribune: Unearthing the grass-roots origins of the postwar reforms to Minnesota’s mental health system.

By Chris Serres
Star Tribune

Foote_Crusade coverIf modern-day reformers wish to understand the perils of isolating people in controlled environments, they should begin by reading an extraordinary new book on the history of mental health care reform in Minnesota, “The Crusade for Forgotten Souls” by Susan Bartlett Foote. Her exhaustively researched book gives compelling evidence that even by the standards of the time, Minnesota’s system of segregated mental institutions was backward, barbaric and particularly resistant to social change.

Setting her story against the backdrop of the enormous stigma attached to mental illness in the early 20th century, Foote describes the arrogance of an entrenched elite of psychiatrists and state administrators who resisted the input of outsiders and stuck with barbaric methods, including prefrontal lobotomies, long after they were discredited. Foote also weaves a dense and rich narrative about how a small group of selfless citizens defied these elites and built a statewide social movement.

Read the full review.