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  • Elizabeth Carstensen

Kate's Story: The Price of Stigma

The name Kate has been substituted for the patient’s real name.


This is a short story about Kate, one of many patients who spent

decades living at the Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford.

Unable to function in her everyday life, her family felt they were left

no choice but have her admitted to the hospital. She spent the rest of

her life in a place that was feared by much of society - a place that

was known by many derogatory names, mainly the nuthouse, looney

bin and the funny farm.


The family considered Kate’s condition shameful, and the decision was

made to keep her whereabouts a dark family secret, no one must

know, not even Kate’s very young daughter, who would never learn

anything about her mother.


Then in the early 1980’s, Hospital Social Workers began trying to

locate family members for all long stay patients. It was then that

Social Worker Doreen Wilson located Kate’s daughter.

Unfortunately, Kate died a short time after and Kate’s daughter and

her husband attended the funeral that was held in the hospital Chapel.

Several weeks later a letter was received by the nursing staff from

Kate’s daughter with the following words:


“Please convey my thanks to the staff for looking after my mother,

someone I never knew.”


This was stigma at work and although much has been accomplished to

minimize the stigma it remains alive in 2023. Tremendous movement

forward has been made in mental health treatment and current

practices of the Saskatchewan Health Authority and at the

Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford make patient and family

centered care a priority. The perspective of the family is valued and

their participation as part of the multi-disciplinary team is welcomed.

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