History of psychiatric hospitals

Written by stacy taylor
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History of psychiatric hospitals
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Modern psychiatric hospitals are safe places for long-term treatments of acute mental illnesses. They typically serve patients who are dangerous to themselves or to other people. These hospitals have a controversial history based on a once purely negative viewpoint about mental health and mental health patients. The current trend of caring and dignified patient-centred services available in mental health facilities may mean a bright future for psychiatric hospitals.

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Bethlem Royal Hospital

London's first psychiatric hospital, Bethlem Royal Hospital, was founded in 1547. It was notorious for its brutal treatments which continued into the 1800s.

Madhouse Act of 1828

The Madhouse Act of 1828 passed Parliament and the 1st Middlesex County Asylum opened in 1831, followed by a decree which ordered an asylum built in every UK county.

Brattleboro Retreat

In the United States (Vermont), Anna Marsh founded the Brattleboro Retreat in 1834. It was ahead of its time. It offered dignified, empowering treatments for mental health patients.

Institution Reform

In 1908, mental patient Clifford Beers wrote a book titled, "A Mind That Found Itself." In it, he called for institution reform based on his degrading experiences in a Connecticut hospital.

Barbaric Treatments

During the early 1900s, psychiatric hospitals began using barbaric treatments such as electroconvulsive (shock) therapy, surgical lobotomies and insulin-induced comas to treat mental illnesses.

National Mental Health Act

With the passing of US President Harry Truman's 1946 National Mental Health Act and emerging drug treatments of 1950s, psychiatric hospitals took a positive turn that continues through today.

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