Authors of "Abandoned Asylums" Visit Bellingham Library
Photographer Tammy & Author Lynn "LK" Blanchard
By Amy Bartelloni
Lifelong friends Lynn Blanchard and Tammy Rebello share more than memories of high school. They’re both passionate advocates for mental health awareness. So, when Tammy called Lynn with an idea for documenting abandoned asylums to bring attention to the history of the mental health field, Lynn said yes before Tammy could even finish asking. The pair presented their book, Images of Modern America: Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts, to the Bellingham Public Library on September 29. The book is a collection of photographs, history, and firsthand accounts, which give readers a glimpse at the roots of mental health problems.
“The project started when my kids were watching Ghost Adventures,” Tammy explained. “They knew I love photography and asked me to check out these places.” As Tammy visited these abandoned asylums, she realized that their history needed to be told. The field of mental health has changed so much, in large part because of the suffering of the patients at some of these places, that these asylums don’t exist anymore the way they used to. Many people don’t realize the struggles that happened there, and Tammy and Lynn set out to document what life was like in those institutions.
“It started out as wanting to tell the stories in an educational, and not scandalous, way,” Lynn added. The mission quickly merged into sharing their own stories about mental illness, and using the book as a platform to get people to seek help and to remove the stigma of mental illness. The pair have been invited to the State House to advocate for mental illness training for first responders.
The book process has been both educational and therapeutic for Lynn. She describes a point, at her darkest hour, when she found a psychologist who was a light in the darkness. Now, she aims to share her light with her audiences. She shared some stories about her favorite chapters and about the things that had happened in the asylums they photographed. With the advances in the mental health field, they hope that kind of suffering will never have to happen again. Already, many of these buildings have been torn down, just after Tammy photographed them, making their documentation all the more important.
Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts was available for signing, as well as some of Tammy’s photographs. The pair plan to release Abandoned Asylums of Connecticut in December, and they plan to continue their fight for awareness of mental illness.