McLean Hospital

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McLean Hospital
Partners HealthCare
Location Belmont, Massachusetts, United States
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Founded 1811
Lists Hospitals in Massachusetts

McLean Hospital (/məkˈln/; also known as Somerville Asylum or Charlestown Asylum) is a psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts.

It is noted for its clinical staff expertise and ground-breaking neuroscience research. It is also known for the large number of famous people who have been treated there, including mathematician John Nash,[1][2] singer-songwriters James Taylor[3][4] and Ray Charles,[3][5] poets Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and Anne Sexton, and authors Susanna Kaysen[3][4] and David Foster Wallace.[6][7]

McLean maintains the world's largest neuroscientific and psychiatric research program in a private hospital. It is the largest psychiatric facility of Harvard Medical School, an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital and owned by Partners HealthCare, which also owns Brigham and Women's Hospital.


Map of the McLean Insane Asylum from an 1884 atlas of Somerville, Massachusetts

McLean was founded in 1811 in a section of Charlestown, Massachusetts, that is now a part of neighboring Somerville, Massachusetts. Originally named Asylum for the Insane, it was the first institution organized by a cooperation of prominent Bostonians who were concerned about homeless mentally ill persons "abounding on the streets and by-ways in and about Boston." The effort was organized by Rev. John Bartlett, chaplain of the Boston Almshouse. The hospital was built around a Charles Bulfinch mansion, which became the hospital's administrative building; most of the other hospital buildings were completed by 1818. The institution was later given the name The McLean Asylum for the Insane in honor of one of its earliest benefactors, John McLean, who granted it enough money to build several such hospitals at the 1818 cost. A portrait of McLean now hangs in the present Administration Building, along with other paintings that were once displayed in the original hospital. In 1892, the facility was renamed McLean Hospital in recognition of broader views on the treatment of mental illness.

In 1895 the campus moved to Waverley Oaks Hill in Belmont, Massachusetts. The civil engineer Joseph Curtis and Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned landscape architect who also conceptualized the Emerald Necklace public spaces of Boston, New York's Central Park, and Hartford's Institute of Living, were consulted on the selection of the hospital site. The move was necessitated by changes in Charlestown, including new rail lines and other distracting development. Olmsted was eventually treated at McLean, but there is no evidence that he was responsible for the design of the grounds.[8][9] Once hospital construction began, Curtis was hired by the hospital and supervised the landscape work for many years.[10]

In the 1990s, facing falling revenue in a changing health care industry, the hospital drafted a plan to sell a percentage of its grounds for development by the Town of Belmont. The sale of the land became the root of a divisive and somewhat baroque political debate in the town during the late 1990s. Ultimately a plan to preserve some of Olmsted's original open space and to allow the town to develop mixed residential and commercial real estate prevailed over a plan to create only high-end residential development. The deal was finalized in 2005 and land development was well underway at the end of the year. Most of its Belmont campus (more than 300 acres (120 ha)) were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

McLean is known widely for its treatment of adolescents, most specifically its treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder using Dialectical Behavioral Therapy developed by Marsha M. Linehan.,[11][12]

McLean is presently led by Scott L. Rauch,[13] President and Psychiatrist in Chief, who is known for his innovative work using brain imaging methods to study psychiatric dysfunction.

McLean is differentiated from its New England peers (such as The Institute of Living and the Brattleboro Retreat) by its combination of teaching, treatment, and research. Most other facilities focus on one of these priorities. It is home to the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, the largest "brain bank" in the world. The hospital developed and implemented national health screenings for alcohol, depression and memory disorders. The Cole Resource Center, a mental health consumer resource and advocacy center, is located at the hospital.

McLean Hospital is a teaching hospital for Harvard University Residents and the continued development of Harvard faculty.

Artistic works inspired by McLean

One popular and anecdotal history of McLean is Alex Beam's Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America's Premier Mental Hospital (ISBN 1-891620-75-4). More factual and scholarly accounts of the history are recorded in the Little and Sutton books listed below. Memoirs of time spent within McLean's walls include Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar and Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (ISBN 0-679-74604-8), which was made into a movie starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. Samuel Shem's roman à clef Mount Misery tells a story inspired at least in part by the author's experiences at McLean. The 1994 Under Observation: Life Inside A Mental Hospital (ISBN 0-14-025147-2, ISBN 0-395-63413-X) by Lisa Berger and Alexander Vuckovic uses some fictional techniques (composite characters, etc.) to describe some of the typical events at Mclean. James Taylor's "Knockin' 'Round the Zoo" recalls his stay at McLean as a teenager.[4][14] Poems of Boston and Just Beyond: From the Back Bay to the Back Ward by Doug Holder ( )(Poems of McLean Hospital from poet Doug Holder, about his 30 plus years working there--archived at the poetry room at the Lamont Library at Harvard University)


Administration Building

See also


  1. "Interview with John Nash: My aren".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "About the Author - Chronology of Plath's Life". The Bell Jar. CliffsNotes. Archived from the original on 2007-03-13. Retrieved 2007-02-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Sale, Jonathan (May 4, 2006). "Ray Charles played piano all the time". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-02-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Beam, Alex (November 26, 2001). "Shrink Wrapped Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll Were Regular Features of Life at McLean Psychiatric Hospital in Belmont". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 30 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Ray Charles Plays the "Harvard Club"". Harvard Magazine. January–February 2002. Retrieved 30 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Michiko Kakutani (August 22, 2012). "David Foster Wallace Biography by D. T. Max". The New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2015. Mr. Max notes that pieces of “Infinite Jest” date back to 1986, when they may have been written as stand-alone stories, “beginning with the playful, comic voice of his Amherst years, passing through his infatuation with postmodernism at Arizona,” and ending with his backing away from ironic detachment in the wake of a stay at the McLean Hospital psychiatric institute and a halfway house.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Katie Koch (December 13, 2012). "A too-short life, examined". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved January 24, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Olmsted's life, legacy fuel enduring fascination". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on June 7, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Frederick Law Olmsted Sr.: Landscape Architect, Author, Conservationist (1822–1903)". Retrieved 30 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "McLean Hospital". Retrieved 30 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Parents of Sasha Menu Courey Talk About BPD
  12. A system that fails troubled teens
  13. Staff Biography of Dr. Scott L. Rauch - McLean Hospital
  14. White, Timothy (2001). James Taylor: James Taylor, His Life and Music. London: Omnibus. p. 16. ISBN 0-7119-8803-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. [1]

Further reading

  • Beam, Alex (2003). Gracefully Insane: The Rise and Fall of America's Premier Mental Hospital. Public Affairs. ISBN 1-58648-161-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Berger, Lisa (1994). Under Observation: Life Inside the McLean Psychiatric Hospital. Tiknor & Fields. ISBN 0-14-025147-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Charles, Ray; Ritz, David (2003). Brother Ray: Ray Charles' Own Story. Da Capo Press. pp. 263–265. ISBN 0-306-81335-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (on his time spent at McLean Hospital)
  • Little, Nina Fletcher (1972). Early years of the McLean Hospital. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sutton, Silvia Barry (1986). Crossroads in Psychiatry: A History of the McLean Hospital. American Psychiatric Press. ISBN 0-88048-253-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Weitz, Don; Burstow, Bonnie (1988). Shrink resistant: The Struggle Against Psychiatry in Canada. New Star Books. pp. 286–288. ISBN 0-919573-83-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (on his time spent at McLean Hospital)

External links