News Local

Films explore Waypoint’s history

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

John LeClair, Rachel Gerow and Gary Bold review a scene from the Keys to our Past film series. (SUBMITTED)

John LeClair, Rachel Gerow and Gary Bold review a scene from the Keys to our Past film series. (SUBMITTED)

 The history of mental-health treatment in Ontario is the focus of a film project put together by Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.

Keys to our Past: Unlocking our History in Mental Health Care debuted Oct. 5 at the centre in Penetanguishene. The project is made up of six 10-minute films exploring the evolution of care for those with mental illness, from the centre’s earliest days as the Asylum for the Insane to its current incarnation.

How things have changed in Penetanguishene or any other institution during the past century quickly become apparent through the short films, said Kristine Lalonde, communications officer at Waypoint.

“Most of the people who were sent here for treatment were shunned by their communities and their families,” Lalonde said. “If you think about it from that point of view — and the evolution and understanding of medications and different types of treatments — it’s completely different (from) what it was.”

The films were made possible by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council as part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, and created in collaboration with the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre. Six themes are explored in the six films, including buildings where the patients are housed, the different types of treatment given, and the language and stigma surrounding mental health.

What becomes clear through the viewing is the ways the treatment for mental-health issues has improved through the decades. The knowledge health-care professionals at the centre have today wasn’t available to those who were working at the centre a generation ago.

“It’s just a matter of education and evidence-based practice,” Lalonde said. “There were many things we look back on now that people think, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that happened,’ but in the day, it was cutting edge, and they thought they were doing good.”

Waypoint’s history shows a field that changes, then changes again, Lalonde added. That’s also evident in its relationship with the community. An employer of 1,200, Waypoint has had a strong presence in Penetanguishene since it opened its doors. Its vast property once housed an outdoor curling rink and skating oval, used by the families of those in the community who worked there.

But Lalonde is quick to point out it was the end of the road — both literally and figuratively — for a collection of the people in the province, owing to its geographic location and purpose in the reform and health-care systems. Keys to our Past is one way to bridge the gap that has developed between the centre and the community.

“We’re trying to break down that stigma. We do welcome people here,” she said. “We want people to come our environment and see that it’s not always what is portrayed. I think these videos help accomplish some of that.”

The films can be viewed at

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