Everyone is more than likely familiar with the topic of mental health, since it is a large part of most of our lives. Even if you yourself haven’t had to deal with any mental health issues, you probably know someone who has. This semester I have been taking a class in abnormal psychology, which is all about the different forms of mental health and the disorders associated with it. Recently, I was tasked with watching a video documentary about mental asylums in Great Britain over the past 100 years. Let me just say it is astounding the kinds of things people have had to endure over the years, and after looking back it has shown me how far we have come since then.
In the earlier years of the documentary, it is described how these institutions were essentially a way for people to send off relatives that they didn’t want to have to deal with anymore. A majority of the time, it was women who were unmarried or suffered some sort of “mental break” which could include anything from PMS symptoms to a depressive episode. These asylums were horribly understaffed and underfunded, most of the time people who went in spent years of their life there unnecessarily. Since there was a lot less knowledge about mental health problems back then, the nurses and doctors would often undergo completely experimental procedures to try and treat the patients. One specific example mentioned was they doctors would inject people with insulin, and it would burn through all the blood sugar in their bodies, and if they didn’t go immediately into a coma, they would scream and thrash about, and many people died in the process.
This is just one of the many examples of the horrors of these mental institutions. What I find particularly disheartening is that most of the time people who ended up here, weren’t suffering from anything that wasn’t treatable in a hospital. Performing these so-called treatments were actually making the people worse off than when they came in. Some people were even kept in these places for many years, with no say in whether or not they could leave or if they wanted these treatments. Luckily, as time went on, the field of mental health and its treatments grew in knowledge and understanding, and with this, many of these asylums were shut down. While the mental health system now is not where it needs to be, it has certainly come a long way from where it started. Now we have ethical codes, consent to treatment, and medical professionals with the ability to actually aid in mental health struggles. In more recent years, the stigma associated with mental health has improved, but, in my opinion, still has a way to go before it reaches the level it should be.
This is the link to the documentary:
Photo by John Kuroski