© Danvers State Insane Asylum 2001-2020

MARIE ROSE (BARBARA) BALTER 

Marie Balter’s life story is one of hope and inspiration to those suffering from severe and persistent mental illness.  Marie, neglected as a child, was given up for adoption during the Great Depression by an alcoholic mother who was unable to care for her.  Unfortunately, her adoptive parents were physical and emotionally abusive toward her. She developed severe anxiety (Panic Disorder) and psychotic depression (Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent, Severe With Psychotic Features) early in her life, and eventually found herself admitted to Danvers State Hospital. Misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia, she was placed on near lethal doses of an experimental antipsychotic drug, which only served to exacerbate her mental and emotional condition.   

Eventually, Marie was placed on the correct medication which allowed her to continue to work toward wellness.  She relied on her deep faith in God and the positive relationships that she had made with some of the staff members and patients at the state hospital where she resided for 20 years.

In 1966, Marie was discharged from Danvers State.  She married a man whom she described as the “love of her life.”  Making good on a promise that she made to God that she would dedicate her life to working with the mentally ill, Marie returned to school and earned a master’s degree from Harvard University. She returned to Danvers State Hospital but not as patient, but as an employee. She later founded the Balter Institute where she hoped that her patient-led idea of mental healthcare would continue.Marie Balter’s life was chronicled in her book, Nobody’s Child. In 1986 Marlo Thomas went on to star as Marie Balter in a television movie also titled Nobody’s Child.

OBITUARY: AUGUST 8, 1999

Marie Rose Balter of Danvers 68: was coauthor of "Nobody's Child". Marie Rose (Barbara) Balter, of Danvers, coauthor of the award-winning autobiography, "Nobody's Child," which explored her life and mistaken commitment to a state mental hospital, died at Beverly Hospital on Friday. She was 68. Mrs. Balter, wife of the late Joseph Balter, was orphaned as a child and lived in foster homes until adopted by Jack and Accursia Barbara. At 17, while living in a boarding school, she suffered from depression and was hospitalized at Danvers State Hospital, the former county lunatic asylum, for more than 20 years. Doctors there reportedly treated her for schizophrenia, aggravating her mood disorder, and when she left she pledged to dedicate her life to those she left behind. 

She also made a commitment to continue her education. Mrs. Balter received a degree in psychology from Salem State College, a master's degree from Harvard University, and in 1984 was awarded an honorary doctorate by Salem State College. She sought to bring hope and peace to the world by fostering harmony in community and family life, both in America and abroad. She made 10 trips to bring medical supplies and financial help to refugees.