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jgo

(975 posts)
Thu Oct 12, 2023, 09:26 AM Oct 2023

On This Day: America's first insane asylum opens - Oct. 12, 1773

(edited from Wikipedia)
"
Eastern State Hospital is a psychiatric hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia. Built in 1773, it was the first public facility in the present-day United States constructed solely for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. The original building burned but was reconstructed in 1985.

Francis Fauquier and the Enlightenment

Eastern State Hospital traces its foundation to Francis Fauquier, Royal Governor of the colony of Virginia. His compassion and humanitarian care for those who needed it the most, made it easier for his ideas to be developed and a facility built.

Fauquier's concern probably rested in Enlightenment principles, which were so widespread throughout the time. The 18th century was a time for rejecting superstitions and religions, and substituting science and logical reasoning. The philosophers David Hume and Voltaire were studying and investigating the worth of human life, which would ultimately alter perceptions of the mentally ill. During this time in London, insane people were viewed and used for as entertainment and comical relief. The Bethlehem Royal Hospital attracted many tourists and even held frequent parades of inmates. Enlightenment attitudes encouraged more sensitivity towards the mentally ill, rather than treating them as outcasts and fools. Some started to believe that being mentally ill was, in fact, an illness of the mind, much like a physical disease or sickness, and that these mental illnesses were also treatable.

Before Governor Fauquier's [actions], a person who was mentally ill was not diagnosed by a doctor, but rather judged by 12 citizens, much like a jury, to be either a criminal, lunatic or Idiot. Most classified as lunatic were placed in the Public Gaol in Williamsburg.

Percival Goodhouse was thought to be one of the first patients admitted to the Eastern State Hospital after its opening on October 12, 1773.

Lunatic asylum

The lunatic asylum or insane asylum was an early precursor of the modern psychiatric hospital.

The fall of the lunatic asylum and its eventual replacement by modern psychiatric hospitals explains the rise of organized, institutional psychiatry. While there were earlier institutions that housed the "insane", the conclusion that institutionalization was the correct solution to treating people considered to be "mad" was part of a social process in the 19th century that began to seek solutions outside of families and local communities.

At the turn of the 18th century, madness was seen principally as a domestic problem, with families and parish authorities in Europe and England central to regimens of care. Various forms of relief were extended by the parish authorities to families in these circumstances, including financial support, the provision of parish nurses and, where family care was not possible, lunatics might be 'boarded out' to other members of the local community or committed to private madhouses.

In the late 17th century, this model began to change, and privately run asylums for the insane began to proliferate and expand in size.

Institutionalization [and Dorothea Dix]

In the United States, the erection of state asylums began with the first law for the creation of one in New York, passed in 1842. The Utica State Hospital was opened approximately in 1850. The creation of this hospital, as of many others, was largely the work of Dorothea Lynde Dix, whose philanthropic efforts extended over many states, and in Europe as far as Constantinople. Many state hospitals in the United States were built in the 1850s and 1860s on the Kirkbride Plan, an architectural style meant to have curative effect.

Women in psychiatric institutions

Based on her study of cases from the Homewood Retreat, Cheryl Krasnick Warsh concludes that "the realities of the household in late Victorian and Edwardian middle class society rendered certain elements—socially redundant women in particular—more susceptible to institutionalization than others."

In the 18th to the early 20th century, women were sometimes institutionalised due to their opinions, their unruliness and their inability to be controlled properly by a primarily male-dominated culture. There were financial incentives too; [in some cases,] all of a wife's assets passed automatically to her husband.

Rapid expansion

By the end of the 19th century, national systems of regulated asylums for the mentally ill had been established in most industrialized countries. At the turn of the century, Britain and France combined had only a few hundred people in asylums, but by the end of the century this number had risen to the hundreds of thousands. The United States housed 150,000 patients in mental hospitals by 1904. Germany housed more than 400 public and private sector asylums. These asylums were critical to the evolution of psychiatry as they provided places of practice throughout the world.

However, the hope that mental illness could be ameliorated through treatment during the mid-19th century was disappointed. Instead, psychiatrists were pressured by an ever-increasing patient population. The average number of patients in asylums in the United States jumped 927%.

Deinstitutionalisation

By the beginning of the 20th century, ever-increasing admissions had resulted in serious overcrowding. Funding was often cut, especially during periods of economic decline, and during wartime in particular many patients starved to death. Asylums became notorious for poor living conditions, lack of hygiene, overcrowding, and ill-treatment and abuse of patients.

The first community-based alternatives were suggested and tentatively implemented in the 1920s and 1930s, although asylum numbers continued to increase up to the 1950s. The movement for deinstitutionalisation came to the fore in various Western countries in the 1950s and 1960s.

The prevailing public arguments, time of onset, and pace of reforms varied by country. Class action lawsuits in the United States, and the scrutiny of institutions through disability activism and antipsychiatry, helped expose the poor conditions and treatment. Sociologists and others argued that such institutions maintained or created dependency, passivity, exclusion and disability, causing people to be institutionalised.

There was an argument that community services would be cheaper. It was suggested that new psychiatric medications made it more feasible to release people into the community.

There were differing views on deinstitutionalization, however, in groups such as mental health professionals, public officials, families, advocacy groups, public citizens and unions.

Today - United States

The United States has experienced two waves of deinstitutionalization. Wave one began in the 1950s and targeted people with mental illness. The second wave began roughly fifteen years after and focused on individuals who had been diagnosed with a developmental disability (e.g. intellectual disability).

A process of indirect cost-shifting may have led to a form of "re-institutionalization" through the increased use of jail detention for those with mental disorders deemed unmanageable and noncompliant. In summer 2009, author and columnist Heather Mac Donald stated in City Journal, "jails have become society's primary mental institutions, though few have the funding or expertise to carry out that role properly... at Rikers, 28% of the inmates require mental health services, a number that rises each year."
"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_State_Hospital_(Virginia)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunatic_asylum

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