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The nature cure: how the great outdoors is transforming treatment of mental health

We need the tonic of wildness. Poets know it. Gardeners know it. Dog walkers know it. Why did it take the medical profession so long to figure it out?

Barisdale, Knoydart. Photo: ALL PHOTOGRAPHY © VENTURE MÒR

In the summer of 1901, the Manhattan State Hospital—the largest psychiatric hospital in the world—was facing a crisis. Tuberculosis was sweeping New York. It was the leading cause of death in the city that year, and many patients being admitted into the asylum were also physically sick with TB upon arrival. What could they do with all the contagious, “tuberculous insane”?

Alexander Macdonald, the hospital’s superintendent, had an idea. He set up two huge canvas tents in the grounds of the…

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