Join us as we scurry back two centuries in time! It’s 1887 in New York City and we’re there to go on an expedition with an audacious young reporter called Nellie Bly. Through this exhilarating episode we try to get to the roots of why mental illness is so stigmatized. Ingeborg ❤️really brought this to life!  


about the author & story perspective

Nellie Bly would be considered an audacious, intrepid reporter by even today’s standards, let alone in turn-of-the century New York City. Her investigation into Blackwell’s Insane Asylum was truly monumental, setting off a ripple of change that we're still seeing the effects of in modern times. From asylums to penitentiaries, the history of mental illness and the treatments thereof is fraught with mistreatment, negligence, and the absence of empathy.  

 

When we spoke with Cambridge-trained psychiatrist Dr. Sumit Anand, he shared his thoughts on this history and cultural shifts that made a lasting impression: 

 

 "And so the jails then become the new warehouses, the new asylums. And suddenly they have to play catch-up […] Funnily enough, actually, now the paradox is that jails cannot be deliberately indifferent to the needs of their inmates, and the conditions for inmates progressively improved over the years, including fundamentals of mental health and physical healthcare. 

 

So the paradox is that the jails provide arguably better healthcare than some of the hospitals do, because they’re mandated by law; they’re very cognizant of laws. So they have that adequate staff. And so the paradox is that even state hospitals are not as adequately staffed, you could argue, as some of the jails are— at least with certain kinds of staff and certain mandated healthcare interventions.

 

There are certain things in medicine we still don’t understand. There are certain psychiatric illness we still don’t understand. We haven’t even got the terminology correct. I mean, the DSM is just basically diagnoses by consensus.

 

They have a thing called 'field trials' where they try to test out the reliability: “Will this psychiatrist diagnosis the same? What we call the ‘validity,' in other words: “What are you actually diagnosing?” I think a lot of psychiatrists around the world would still have huge questions about, “Is schizophrenia as it’s described in the DSM?" Or is it more, you know?

"There are certain things in medicine we still don’t understand. There are certain psychiatric illness we still don’t understand." - Dr. Sumit Anand

Nellie Bly was an American journalist born in Cochran's Mills, Pennsylvania, in 1864. In 1887, Bly moved to New York City, where she began working at the New York World under editor and publisher Joseph Pulitzer. One of Bly's earliest assignments was to write an exposé detailing the experiences of patients sent to the asylum on Blackwell's Island (now called Roosevelt Island). In 1889, the World sent Bly on a trip around the world, which she completed in a famous, record-breaking 72 days. Her report was later compiled into a book, Ten Days in a Mad-House, and spearheaded a large-scale investigation that eventually led to lasting institutional reforms and the closing of Blackwell’s Island Asylum in 1894.

 

Bly’s journalism career is notable for her investigations into mistreatments of people in New York jails and factories and governmental corruption. On January 27, 1922, Bly died at age 57, in New York City. 

Ingeborg is a South African - German born actress, voice artist and writer based in New York. She's best known for her lead role in the indie feature film Expiration. After graduating top of her class from the University of Pretoria with a BA Drama Honors Degree (Cum Laude) as well as a BA English Honors Degree (Cum Laude) , Ingeborg was cast straight out of university as the lead in an international three year tour of Barney and Friends, a live musical theatre production of the popular children’s show.

 

Recent highlights include her narration for The Wingman and The Best Man written by Natasha Anders and available on Audible. Visit Ingeborg at www.ingeborgriedmaier.co.za

Dr. Sumit Anand has over two decades of experience in treating psychiatric disorders. He graduated from the University of London in 1992 and went on to do partial residency training in psychiatry at University of Cambridge in England, as well as non-training posts in forensic psychiatry. He then went on to do his psychiatry residency in the United States at University of Virginia Medical Center in 1998. 

 

Dr. Anand has served as the medical director at two state psychiatric hospitals in the Washington metro area. He has also provided expert witness testimony to the DC Superior Court as well as Fairfax County Circuit Court. He is published on topics such as anger and diagnostic classification. He currently lives in Alexandria VA, with his wife and daughter.

Eric Holzschuh is an Alaskan-born actor and content creator. He is the trusted voice of trusted brands. He is represented by numerous talent agents throughout the world. Eric is currently the signature voice of the “Prince William Sound College” campaign. 

 

He has recorded hundreds of commercials, industrials, narrations, training videos, internet videos, tv projects, educational scripts, IVR prompts, on-hold messages, tutorials, e-learning projects, audiobooks, promos, and telephony projects.  You can find samples of his work on his website www.ericholzschuh.com   

Visit Eric across social @EricHolzschuh. His email is ericholzschuh@gmail.com

 

share this story

If you have a friend, family member or significant other whom you think could benefit from this story, please share it with them using the share buttons below.