A Century of Mental Health History

Posted by Daniel on Jul 16, 2012

A landmark in the history of mental health care in the province passed this month with the closure of Riverview Hospital after close to a century of operation.

Riverview opened in Coquitlam in 1913 as the Provincial Mental Hospital at Essondale with 340 male patients. It was soon known simply as Essondale, after Henry Esson Young, a doctor and provincial cabinet minister who was instrumental in the creation of the hospital. Then, in 1965, the name changed again, to Riverview. The facility eventually included several buildings and at its peak in the mid-1950s cared for 4,300 patients. It had become a community unto itself with a fire department, a school, a credit union, housing for staff and their children and so on.

By the 1980s large mental hospitals such as Riverview had fallen out of favour. It was considered preferable that people with mental health difficulties find treatment within the community. Unhappily this process of deinstitutionalization, which occurred internationally as well, did not go smoothly as local governments often did not provide the necessary community care.

In the case of Riverview, patient care wound down gradually over many years until this month when the last 40 patients were transferred to other facilities.