Hysteria or Misogyny? Women, Madness, and Mental Health

Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 4:00pm

This is a past event.

Doheny Memorial Library (DML), Friends of the USC Libraries Lecture Hall, Room 240
3550 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

Admission is free. Reservations required. RSVP beginning Wednesday, October 16, at 9 a.m. 


From the “hysteria” of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to neurotic and mood disorders in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, women far outnumber men in being given diagnoses of madness. But what does the statistic really mean? This conversation will unearth the long-silenced narratives of female patients suffering under the societal and medical constraints imposed upon them using arcane and, in many cases, inconsistent standards of sanity.

In conjunction with an exhibition of rare items from Patton State Hospital and Rockhaven Sanitarium tracing the history of women’s mental health treatment collected by the USC Libraries, an extraordinary panel of artists and advocates will offer modern perspectives on healthcare for women and personal reflections on journeys toward wellness.

Imade Nibokun is a mental-health advocate and founder of Depressed While Black.

Elyse Fox is a filmmaker and founder of Sad Girls Club.

Ellen Forney is a community mental-health advocate, graphic artist, and author of Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me and Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life.

The conversation will be moderated by Sandi Hemmerlein, a writer, photographer, and historian whose work has chronicled abandoned hospitals and sanitariums including Rockhaven Sanitarium.

Imade Nibokun
is a writer and mental-health advocate living in San Francisco. She originally wrote about struggling with depression as a USC graduate student for her 2015 Columbia University MFA thesis. Nibokun later expanded her work, “Depressed While Black,” into an online community and an in-progress book that explores race, religion, and romance while taking meds and navigating therapy.

Elyse Fox is a Brooklyn-born filmmaker and founder of Sad Girls Club. After releasing her documentary film Conversations with Friends, about her life with depression, Fox immediately heard from a wave of young women from all over the world who were seeking a mentor through their mental-health struggles. She founded Sad Girls Club in real life and as an online platform committed to bringing together girls with mental illnesses.

Ellen Forney is the author of the best-selling graphic memoir Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me and Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life. She collaborated on the National Book Award–winning novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; curated Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived & Well-Drawn, a traveling exhibition about comics and health; and teaches comics at Cornish College of the Arts.

Sandi Hemmerlein has been published both locally and internationally via Atlas Obscura, KCET, PBS SoCal, and Discover Los Angeles. Her blog Avoiding Regret follows her personal journey and reflections on self-discovery and the ups, downs, and in-betweens of life.

Related Event:
Rockhaven Sanitarium Tour

Montrose, CA
Saturday, November 16, 2019
Depart USC at 10 a.m.; return at 2 p.m.
For more info, click here.

Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative. Organized by Anne-Marie Maxwell, Alyssa Brissett, and Megan Rosenbloom (USC Libraries).

Event Type

Lecture / Talk / Workshop, Conference/Symposia, Student Life, Event Highlights


Students, Alumni, Faculty/Staff


University Park Campus


Cinematic Arts, Art & design, literary arts, architecture, science & technology




Admission is free. Reservations required.

Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative


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