The Island

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

That day came. This is what Silvan was thinking at that moment, while a boat was bringing him to the island of San Servolo. He has been guessing when its turn would have come. The fame of San Servolo was not unknown to him, as one of the gloomiest hospitals for mental illness.

It was 1912 and Silvan was a boy from the small city of Mirano, a few kilometres from Venice. Since he was five, he started having strange behaviours, which were inexplicable for his family. But people started being afraid of him, because of this. Not even the best doctors in the whole region could explain it. The only thing that was clear was that sometimes Silvan completely lost control of himself. When he had these inexplicable crises, everything happened quickly. Silvan suddenly lost consciousness and perception of anything around him, not anymore able to control his body, even hurting himself. When this finished, Silvan came back to his sense, not understanding what had happened to him, not being able to remember. The only thing that he remembered were the faces of people around him. Everybody considered him crazy. His family became worried for him, they felt they had to do something. It was his father that took the decision to call the psychiatric hospital. He knew that there Silvan would have been safe, at least he was hoping it.

Once arrived, Silvan was brought to his small room. He never meant to be a burden for his family, but he came out to be even worse. For this reason, he accepted to be there, far from everyone. After his arrival, he started the cure. But those were not cure, those were torture. Doctors treated patients like animals, unable to understand and take action for themselves. Sometimes he tried to oppose, but the only answer was the use of force.

He was feeling in prison, that was not life. Nobody spoke to each other in that place, it was impossible to have human contact. The only moment where he felt normal was in the isolation of that huge gardens. Sitting on the grass, listening to the twitter of birds was the freest action he was allow to. While humans treated him like an object, animals treated him like a human.

Silvan was not reacting as he should have to the treatment. Looking at his analysis, doctors were whispering behind his shoulders. He felt something was going to happen. Doctors told him that there was not much to do, his case was serious. But Silvan knew that he was not crazy, he just needed help, but nobody listened to him. There was one last medical test he had to do, before taking the decision to section him or not “as long as it was necessary”, which Silvan knew it meant forever.

The last test of Silvan was an impossible test. For the doctors, being sane meant to be able to pass an entire session of electroshock as if nothing was happening. Such an objective would have been undoable even for a sane person. Silvan was not demented; he just needed the right cure. But that was not an option for him. He held on tight life to himself, but it was something bigger than him. Silvan could not make it. Now, on his documentation, there was a highlighted sentence: “adequate to institutionalisation”, or internment, as it should be called. He understood that nobody would have helped him. He knew that the only mental illness is the prejudice of people and the inability of people to see things as they are.


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