Ontario Shores celebrates a century

This year, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences celebrates a century of care.

The centre is a leader in mental health care, providing a range of specialized assessment and treatment services for people living with complex mental illness. Ontario Shores engages in research, education and advocacy initiatives to advance the mental health care system.

Officially marking the century mark on Oct. 23, six individuals (Jordon Beenen, Ian Hakes, Kristie Jennings, Candice McAlister, Barbara Murray and Lori Lane-Murphy) from across Durham Region were named as Ambassadors of Hope. They’ll assist in the promotion of events, initiatives, and campaigns associated with the milestone anniversary. According to the Ontario Shores website, they are an integral part of those initiatives as they spread the message about the centre’s vision, core values and good work leading up to the anniversary.

The organization’s journey officially began in 1911 when architect James Govan consulted with psychiatrists, physicians and government officials to develop a design for a new mental-health centre on the shores of Lake Ontario.

In 1912, the Ontario government purchased the land on the shores of Lake Ontario at Whitby for $128,000. Consisting of approximately 640 acres of land, the site for the proposed hospital was made up of a number of small farms and a larger property known as Bayside Farm.

Twenty-five patients of the Queen Street Toronto Asylum were transferred to Whitby to work on the farm living in temporary buildings. The therapeutic effects of the outdoor work were soon seen. A newspaper article on August 29, 1912 said, “One case is reported concerning a patient who had not spoken for six months … was moved to the farm, and several days later surprised a doctor by answering a salutation. Since then he has apparently recovered entirely … and talks quite freely.”

During the First World War, the centre became a convalescent home for wounded veterans, named the Ontario Military Hospital before shifting back to mental health and officially opening as the Ontario Hospital for the Insane on Oct. 23, 1919. The hospital has had several names over the years before settling on its current moniker as part of a major rebrand in 2009.

Photo, courtesy of Ontario Shores: By December 1920, the Ontario Hospital for the Insane housed 917 patients, all of whom were transferred from other psychiatric facilities. The total number of staff in 1920 was 141, of which 77 were nurses and attendants.

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