May is Mental Health Awareness Month

By Jessica Tucker, Archivist

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, 1 in 5 adult Texans will experience a mental health concern at some point this year. Of those, the Mental Health Committee Report & Recommendations (issued by the Texas Judicial Council in October 2016) approximates 1 million Texans will experience serious mental illness.

The Texas State Archives has many records related to mental health services in Texas, including the Texas Board for Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools records, 1950-1965; Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation records, 1967-1983; and Volunteer Services Council for the Austin State School records, 1957-1988, to name just a few. Another example is the fascinating and wide-reaching Josephine T. Lamb collection, 1931, 1942-1969, undated, bulk 1954-1966.

Image of An Act for the Erection and Support of a Lunatic Asylum from the 6th Texas Legislature

1 An Act for the Erection and Support of a Lunatic Asylum. 6th Legislature, Adjourned Session (1856), Texas Secretary of State legislative bills and resolutions filed (General and Special Laws). Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Josephine T. Lamb served as director of nursing services for both the Austin and Terrell State Hospitals before becoming chief of psychiatric nursing for the Texas Board for State Hospitals and Special Schools in 1954. As part of her job duties, Lamb regularly visited and inspected several state hospitals and special schools in the state of Texas, from Denton to Harlingen and many places in between such as the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation and the Confederate Home. The bulk of the collection is composed of the meticulous reports and evaluations Lamb wrote about her inspections and visitations. The reports critique not only the nurses themselves but hospital supplies (down to the last ounce of powdered egg), staff behavior including any staffing needs, cleanliness of both patients and facilities (often including the current laundry rotation), hospital policies and procedures, and official response to any incidents or deaths. Taken together, the reports provide a detailed and insightful look at life in a psychiatric institution in mid-twentieth century Texas.

Black and white photo of Texas State Insane Asylum, Austin, 1873

State Insane Asylum, Austin, 1873. Mabel H. Brooks photograph collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, 1932/005-109.

Lamb also continued to study recent developments in the field of psychiatric nursing. The remotivation theory of psychiatry seemed particularly interesting to her, as evidenced by the many studies, articles, and informational brochures in the Lamb collection. The remotivation theory turned away from the traditional psychiatric approach of long-term institutionalization toward eventual reintegration of psychiatric patients into general society whenever possible through means such as family involvement, building of social skills, and creative therapy. Lamb also found the time to help train other psychiatric nurses and greatly advanced the profession in Texas. Accordingly, her records include training manuals, correspondence with prospective nurses, and many other notes, reports, and publications. Lamb’s exact date of retirement is unknown, but occurred sometime after 1966.

To learn more about the Josephine Lamb collection or other mental health-related holdings at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, contact our reference desk at reference.desk@tsl.texas.gov.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services offers information on a wide variety of mental health resources in Texas. To learn more, visit http://mentalhealth.org.

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