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Posts Tagged ‘Mental Health Awareness Month’

Contributed by Jodi Kearns.

Last summer, we digitized the wire recordings from Dr. David P. Boder’s collection and discovered 17 spools of 1951 interviews with a woman named Cynthia.

These records document a 3-month ongoing professional relationship of an often crying Cynthia confiding in Dr. Boder about her family and friends, her desire to be a singer and a writer, and steps she’d taken to becoming a physically and mentally healthier person. Throughout the recordings, Boder reminds Cynthia to eat breakfast and to try to be around people who support her.

Listen to a couple of excerpts from Cynthia and Boder’s nearly 20 hours of recorded conversations. [Note: It is difficult to be certain the speed and pitch of interviews are accurate when we’re reformatting obsolete analog media.]

 

The first selected excerpt, Cynthia is discussing living alone, rather than having a roommate. [Spool 10, March 23, 1951]

In this next clip from the second-last interview, Boder reinforces his early advice for physical and mental health care. [Spool 15, April 21, 1951]

 

Two years after these conversations were recorded, Boder gave a transcript of the first spool to Dr. J. F. T. Bugental with a letter praising Bugental for his “most useful contribution to interview work.” Boder may be referring to a 1953 publication in the Journal of Clinical Psychology where Bugental describes a technique whereby clinicians use recordings and transcripts of sessions with patients to analyse subject matter of both speakers. “You may use it for any scientific purpose you wish,” Boder offers his colleague. In this letter, written two years after his recorded interviews with Cynthia, Boder seems to know only a little information about Cynthia, including that she had received shock treatments and that her prognosis was “rather grave.”

 

Boderletter

excerpt from a letter to Dr. Bugental from Dr. David P. Boder (March 3, 1953) [David P. Boder papers, M24, Folder “Patient Protocols”]

Cynthia is the pseudonym Boder uses in his transcriptions of the first spool that he gave to Bugental. The transcript includes an index of names and where these names appear within the transcript: “Kim, 20th Page;” “Nancy, 42nd Page.” Cynthia names the editor of the newspaper where she worked and the names of an ex-boyfriend and his new wife. Currently, there are Wikipedia articles that verify these three people existed and were an editor, a musician, and an actor. We were able to locate newspaper articles she wrote while the named editor was her boss. It is satisfying to be able to verify events from Cynthia’s  stories.

The first recording in the series also holds enough personal information that we were able to use census records and old yearbooks available online to connect some dots. We were quick to discover Cynthia was a high school cheerleader and a prolific poet. We also found a living relative. Cynthia’s great niece told us that the diagnosis was schizophrenia, something Boder never says in the recordings and associated papers housed at the Cummings Center. Her family shared with us a childhood photograph and some of Cynthia’s original poetry. We learned that she spent most of the rest of her life after the institutionalization mentioned in Boder’s 1953 letter in specialized hospitals and treatment facilities. Cynthia died in 1995 at around 70 years old.

Sixty five years after the original interviews were recorded on those wire spools, last summer Patrick Kennedy visited the Cummings Center while we were digitizing. He listened for several minutes off the original wire spools. These records remind us, Mr. Kennedy commented, that there are real people behind the patient records and doctors’ reports.

We were so glad to have found Cynthia.

 

CCHP_MediaLab_PKennedy2_wmrk

Jon Endres, Media & Technology Specialist, plays Boder’s wire-recording interview with Cynthia for Mr. Kennedy, Dr. David Baker, and me.

 

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