In 1958, when this picture was taken, my mother, Myrtle Paul (left), and her friend, Ann Hall, were called Attendants. They were two of the frontline caretakers of the mentally ill at Fulton State Hospital. My mother took months of classes to learn the responsibilities and skills required for her job. She brought home notebooks full of medical terminology and anatomy, memorized names and doses of countless medications, and practiced giving injections.
She told me it was the on-the-job-training, not the classes, that taught her how to talk a patient down to defuse a dangerous situation. And how to take him down when talking didn’t work.
This picture was taken on a sunny day near the old South Wards. Notice the narrow bars in the windows.
I’ve heard the new title is “Technician” instead of Aide. Whatever the name, these are the people who make the biggest difference in the day-to-day life of the severely mentally ill.