Lunatic Asylums

1160 Words5 Pages
Changes in North American psychiatry over the past few centuries have proved vast and far-reaching. The emergence of new mental disorders, technological innovation, biological discoveries, and mass deinstitutionalization were only but a few of the changes to the mental health field. What is most striking historically is how attitudes regarding mental illness have evolved over time– existing once as something that both public and professionals took great strides to hide that has now gone mainstream in the modern world. By looking at the history of psychiatric institutions, a connection between these two evolutions can be drawn. This paper will analyze how the changing attitudes towards mental illness shaped the practice, processes and policies…show more content…
Before the emergence of asylums, the burdening of caring for and keeping mentally ill individuals at bay was a domestic responsibility, resting entirely on an individual’s loved ones and local parishes. One of the first recorded asylums in the world was London’s Bethlem Royal Hospital, which admitted its first mentally ill patients in the early thirteenth century. Early hospitals were initially funded “in equal parts by a colonial grant and subscription.” Up until the late eighteenth century, treatment of the mentally ill was grounded on often privately run institutions built on commercial enterprise; there was little to no regard for patients. For almost a century after its emergence as a medical specialty at the turn of the nineteenth century, the field of psychiatry was limited to severely disordered, disabled, criminals, and socially deviant individuals confined to asylums, hospitals and madhouses. The pubic view of mentally ill patients was that “society was in need of protection from these…show more content…
Eugenics was a power movement in the United States from the late nineteenth century until about 1945, with its basic belief being that bad and unchangeable genes caused problems in society. The medical field adopted the movement in the sense of a belief that genetic differences would always be linked to certain human mental characteristics. Consequently, asylums were increasingly accepted as a necessity to protect society from the inherently mad and became more numerous. The eugenics movement also sparked the use of quite invasive and restraining procedures on people with mental illness to arguable “make them more manageable for attendants,” such as electroshock therapy, medically induced comas, and frontal lobotomies. Today, eugenics remains an important area of inquiry, reflection and education for those in the field of social
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