Beyond the Asylum

The Evolution of Mental Health Care in Prince Edward Island 1846-2017

PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation

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How Prince Edward Islanders have historically cared for those people with mental illness has gone through a cycle starting with sheltering them at home, to 100 years of institutionalization in the asylum or mental hospital, followed by the growth of community-based services and the movement of hundreds of patients out of the hospital and back into the community. Today, Islanders can access a comprehensive spectrum of mental health services that include—but also go far beyond—the asylum/mental hospital.

The evolution of these changes is detailed in this richly illustrated new history, Beyond the Asylum, published by the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation. The book is available in local bookstores, in both soft and hard cover editions.

Beyond the Asylum describes the often bumpy evolution of mental health care in PEI from 1846 to 2017. Optimism and progress ebbed and flowed, many times. Well-intentioned leaders with promising ideas saw their proposed improvements turn into disappointments—often due to inconsistent and inadequate funding, overcrowding, disasters, limited knowledge of effective treatment, and unskilled staff, to name a few. The mental health care system still faces many of these challenges today.

This story is an important one for Islanders, say the publishers, as it reflects who we were, who we are now, and who we could be in terms of how we treat people who live with mental illness.