State Hospital will honor shunned former patients
The Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, a residential facility for people with mental illness, will hold its annual memorial service Thursday to remember former patients whom society tried to forget.
The 10:30 a.m. service will be held at Hawaiian Memorial Park.
The ashes of 667 former patients were once stored in metal or cardboard boxes in a basement for 30 years in a manner reflecting the "horrendous conditions" in which they lived from 1930 to 1960, said David Sohmer, the hospital's communications director.
Back then, people with mental illness were generally cloistered away in an asylum and forgotten because it was "a matter of shame to have a family member with mental illness," he said. When no one claimed their remains, the hospital, then called the Territorial Hospital of Hawaii, cremated them and stored them on site.
About a third of the ashes remain unidentified because some name labels, often merely stapled to the boxes of ashes, listed only a surname or fell off. The ashes were finally inurned in "a respectful manner" with bronze name plaques at Hawaiian Memorial Park in 1960, Sohmer said.
Every year since then, the hospital and the state Department of Health have held a community ceremony "to come to terms with the way we used to treat people, how bad things can be. ... It's a commitment of the hospital and state never to let these conditions happen again," he said.
The 45-minute ceremony, near the cemetery entrance closest to Kaneohe, will be followed by refreshments in the auditorium.