Even today, three-quarters of a century after they were shot, Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photographs from the grounds of Pilgrim State Hospital on Long Island are remarkable for the way they blend clear-eyed reporting with a genuine sense of compassion. But what is perhaps most unsettling about the images is how terribly familiar they look.
As LIFE wrote:
The day of birth for every human being is the start of a lifelong battle to adapt himself to an ever-changing environment. He is usually victorious and adjusts himself without pain. However, in one case out of 20 he does not adjust himself. In U.S. hospitals, behind walls like [those] shown here, are currently 500,000 men, women an children whose minds have broken in the conflict of life. About the same number, or more, who have lost their equilibrium, are at large. Their doctor say they have mental diseases. Their lawyers call them insane.
Mentally balanced people shun and fear the insane. The general public refuses to face the terrific problem of what should be done for them. Today, though their condition has been much improved, they are still the most neglected, unfortunate group in the world. [This photo essay feature] pictures showing the dark world of the insane and what scientists are doing to lead them back to the light of reason.See more photos here.
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