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Provincial Hospital for the Insane Ponoka
Before Alberta existed as a Canadian province, citizens of the North-West Territories deemed to suffer from mental illness were sent to an asylum in Brandon, Manitoba for treatment. However, in 1908, it became clear that the burgeoning population (alongside a growing number of psychiatric patients and "mental defectives") meant that a new institution must be built. The provincial government began constructing Alberta's first mental health institution in Ponoka. The site was deliberately chosen as a rural area - medical advice of the day required fresh air and immersion in nature as remedies for troubled minds. The hospital was also self-sustaining, using gardens to supply its own food. The hospital officially opened in 1911 as the Alberta Hospital for the Insane, and construction finished in 1912.
During the early and mid-twentieth century, this institution was the primary mental health institution of the province. When the hospital first opened, very few nurses worked there, with little knowledge of psychiatric nursing. However, when Dr. Baragar was appointed Acting Superintendent of the hospital, he also established a nursing school. Dr. Baragar, a psychiatrist from Brandon Mental Hospital, strongly felt that nursing care of "the complexities of the mind" should be a profession in its own right. Click here for more...