The Hospital Always Wins

In 2005, American producer Laura Starecheski began recording at Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital – the largest state psychiatric care institution in New York City. Whilst there, she stumbled on to a mystery that would take almost ten years to unravel.

Laura had gone to Creedmore to record at the Living Museum – a studio dedicated to the art produced by patients at Creedmoor. However, it was one patient, Issa Ibrahim, that kept drawing Laura back. 

In fact, Laura would spend about the next 10 years recording with Issa who had been diagnosed with Paranoid schizophrenia. This mental illness had earlier led to a horrific family tragedy – which resulted in Issa’s acquittal by reason of insanity but subsequent admittance into Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital, where he spent almost twenty years. During Issa’s time in Creedmoor, an Irish psychiatrist named Dr. Angela Hegarty, became the director of forensic psychiatry.

Raised in an idyllic creative environment, Issa’s mother and father cultivated his artistic talent from a young age but his family descended into chaos in the drug-crazed late 1980s. Following his father’s death, Issa, grief-stricken and vulnerable, traveled down a road that led to psychosis – and to one of the most nightmarish scenarios conceivable.

The Hospital Always Wins paints a detailed picture of a broken mental health system whilst also revealing the power of art, when nurtured in a benign environment, to provide a resource for recovery. Ultimately this is a story about survival and atonement through creativity and courage against almost insurmountable odds.

Narrated and produced by Laura Starecheski.

First broadcast by State of the Re:Union on NPR in the United States.