There is a long legacy of mental health care in both London and Elgin County, dating back to 1870 and 1939 respectively. Although both Regional Mental Health Care London and St. Thomas have moved to new locations, their history lives on.
Regional Mental Health Care London
The former London Psychiatric Hospital opened its doors on the Highbury Avenue site in 1870 becoming part of a wide-spread movement across North America to create specialized institutions for the mentally ill. The 500 bed facility was instantly at capacity. In the 1930s there were over 1700 patients.
In the late 1800s almost all of the London Asylum for the Insane’s 900 patients were working in some capacity at the facility. Dr. Richard Bucke believed in the idea of work therapy, including farming, as treatment for those with mental illness, helping patients to focus on healthy activities.
Regional Mental Health Care St. Thomas
On April 1, 1939 the former St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital opened its doors and was at its greatest capacity with over 2,400 patients. Even before construction was complete, the hospital was known as the finest mental health hospital in the country because of its modern design. The site included 460 acres of land for the facility’s food and produce needs.
The site was used as a training ground for the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Over sixty thousand British Commonwealth air force personnel along with volunteers were trained at the facility.
The provincial government reopened the hospital to patients in 1945 and by 1947 there were close to 1,100 patients.
In June 2013, Regional Mental Health Care St. Thomas closed it's doors, replaced by the new state of the art facility - St. Joseph's Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care.
Read about the former Regional Mental Health Care St. Thomas facility and the legacy of more than 70 years of mental health care that took place within it's walls, including a historical timeline, photos, videos and shared memories.