How Did Dorothea Dix Treat The Mentally Ill In The 1800s

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In the 1800s, the mentally ill and prisoners were forced to live in wretched conditions and often were not even treated as regular citizens. Patients of mental institutions were operated on so they were more controllable. The mentally insane that did not live at home were kept in prisons, few were in faulty poorhouses, and even fewer were in hospitals. Many hospitals had mental wards, but they were inadequate for patients. In the 1840s, Dorothea Dix visited many prisons where the deranged were kept and found that these conditions were unsuitable for living quarters (“Dorothea Dix Biography”). The inhumane treatment of the mentally ill in prisons and asylums inspired Dorothea Dix to lead the struggle for reforms, and although she faced opposition,…show more content…
These hospitals set off an avalanche, causing new reforms all over the United States. This was phenomenal for the time period. Dix started out with only having one small victory, a stove placed in a room in a prison. This set off a series of new reforms that bettered the lives of the mentally ill and prisoners. In many states besides Massachusetts, hospitals were being set up to care for the insane in the United States. By the time she died, Dorothea Dix reformed about 20 different states that had new mental institutions and better living conditions for prisoners. Many of these states, such as New Jersey, previously did not have any sort of healthcare for the mentally disabled in any capacity, causing much surprise when the legislature voted for a state hospital devoted to the care of the mentally ill. Some states, like Massachusetts, had very little to do with the mentally disabled excepting the few hospitals that had run-down wards and the almshouses that would accept the mentally challenged, the poor, and the orphans. Because of Dix, many states were now more willing to care for the mentally ill and were making prisons and jails more suitable for living. Halfway through the 18th century, the United States was serving as a model for prisons. Dix was revolutionary in reforming prisons. She convinced states to invest in libraries, basic education, and more care for the men, women, and even children imprisoned in the jails and penitentiaries whereas abuse regularly occurred (Parry). Pennsylvania was a key role model for prisons all over the United States. This state’s prisons were known for having “two of the best prisons in the world” (“Prison and Asylum
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