What Was It Like To Be Mentally Ill In The 1900s? (Mental Health Historical Counseling)

Psychiatric hospitals in the 1900s were most commonly known as insane or lunatic asylums. Patients in the asylum faced inhumane mental, psychological and physical treatment that was regarded as torture. Officials would lock mentally ill patients against their will because of the misconceptions that these individuals could harm others or the community they are involved in. That is despite having fewer ideas on what is entirely going on with the patients’ psychological well-being. The hospitals or asylums rely on extreme isolation despite having few ideas on properly treating signs and symptoms of any mental health problems. Knowing that, let’s talk about what it is like to be mentally ill in the 1900s.

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Patients Were Sent To Asylums Involuntarily

Before, the problem was about drug prescriptions and had a lot to do with the laws that allowed families to send their loved ones to the institution. In the early days of the booming psychiatric hospitals, most patients are sent to the asylum without consent. It is mostly against their will all the time, especially when people began to notice their indifferent behaviors. But not all individuals inside the psychiatric hospitals are mentally ill. In some unfortunate instances, families could literally pay or purchase confinement rights to put some relatives in the hospital whenever they do not want to deal with them. Usually, some family members favor questionable reasons for admitting their loved ones. These can include landing in the asylum for a couple of years just because they practice a different religion, behaving not accordingly to rules, and basically doing things outside the norm.

Patients Were Treated As Prisoners In The Hospitals

One of the mere reasons why most people with mental health problems tend to hide their illness or even mild symptoms is because of the fear of going to the asylum and getting locked up there for an extended period. That is because, at some point in the early days, almost all people are aware of how dreadful and horrific the treatment process mentally ill individuals had to go through from the hands of the people that was supposed to provide patients with care, including doctors, healthcare providers, guards, and staff. Somehow, mentally ill individuals want to avoid certain maltreatment, such as solitary confinement. Patients are treated like prisoners as every door and window of all registered asylums were blocked, barred heavily, and fully covered separately. Thus, it means that an escape was close to impossible.

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Patients Became Guinea Pigs For Extensive Experiments

In the early 1900s, one of the worst experiences people with mental health problems would have to deal with is becoming part of an experiment. In some years in history, it was reported that mentally ill individuals that are currently staying in an asylum were often gathered to become tests subjects for treatment for various diseases. There are times where mentally ill people are forced to take medications regardless of the side effects their bodies would go through. Usually, those patients with violent tendencies, extrovert personalities, and risk of suicide are the ones fit for the extensive experiments. There are also instances where the patients suffered from physical deformation and amputation to support some doctors’ said surgical operations. The worst cases in which psychiatric patients deemed useless will be burned to ashes or killed for what the experiment is worth. And to make matters worse, most asylums do not adhere to people’s age. Meaning, even newborns and children below 16 years old are not exempted from being part of a brutal medical experiment.

Patients Suffered From Brutal Medical Treatment

As mentioned earlier, the treatment for mental illness was so brutal. And despite the harm, it caused to the emotional, mental, and physical aspects of confined people, those in the position don’t seem to care at all. Most 1900s asylums were recognized due to their spinning wheel method. It is where mentally ill people are put on a spinning wheel at an extremely high speed. Another brutal process is where patients experience harnessing and swinging nonstop for quite a few hours. Patients also suffered from electrocutions and lobotomies. Some also experienced branding where mentally ill people are stamped with hot irons in some parts of the body to bring them to their senses. Most people in the days probably think that these brutal methods were able to help. Unfortunately, these are all useless and serves as additional forms of maltreatment and torture.

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Knowing that these agonizing things existed in the past is terrifying. Mentally ill individuals would appreciate the open-mindedness of the new generation’s way of treatment. From counseling to therapy and mindfulness to lifestyle changes, these have been the most favorable psychological treatments that anyone in the 1900s would wish to undergo.


Mental Health Counselor Discusses About Mental Health Care History

Part of counseling is always to know the history of the healthcare profession, not just counseling but also all therapy and psychological treatment. That is to give professionals a glimpse of how the process started and developed over time. Like any other things that have been part of history, even treating mental health problems was way too different back in the day.

In history, almost all people who are mentally different from the rest are labeled as “insane,” “demonic,” “possessed,” “intellectually incapable,” etc. But still, they were part of a wide reform undertaken by authorities. The purpose is to help improve people’s social, moral, and economic problems concerning mental health issues while regulating some other complications. However, services provided to those with mental health problems were not straightforward as there’s a platter of social issues that existed.

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As time progressed, history proved that mentally ill individuals do not have a voice regarding discrimination, social experimentation, forced locked up, and healthcare reform. That is because all individuals experiencing mental health symptoms back in history were seen as an instant social and religious nuisance. Authorities were unable to distinguish criminals and possessed to those mentally ill ones. Thus, there is a struggle in separating groups requiring specific support and treatment. The lack of distinction hinders proper services since people believed that the only solution is to put them in isolation.

Back in the day, the treatment services of mentally ill individuals were inconsistent and incoherent. There are certain types of processes that can almost harm, amputate, and kill individuals almost instantly. But for the sake of mental health reforms, organizations and other medical providers see through it that what they offered to mentally ill patients is worth it and will define history. Soon enough, the whole experience throughout the past decades got stuck up with misused institutions.

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Walking Down Memory Lane

The 1800s were characterized in history as the brutal years for any mental health involvement. There were lots of constructed public asylums that somehow contribute to the substantial rise of inmates of the institution. Asylums were no home for mentally ill people as some of them suffered from devastating and heart-wrenching physical and emotional torture. The 1800s were deemed as the worst history for mental health patients.

The latter year was also considered as the year where an increased volume of individuals diagnosed with mental health and made the asylum became a theater of hopelessness and despair. The utility of madness across all patients dealing with mental health issues was only focused on widespread death and deprivation that occurred silently on every asylum wall. More of these institutions were not concerned with any hope, security, and protection of patients and merely offered an alternative to those mentally ill people.

Back in the day, the unfortunate truth happens when someone is mentally incapable. Mentally ill people are not treated well but rather served as a sample for experimentation and brutal torture. However, those individuals with manageable symptoms specifically rely on isolation with extremely less social interaction. And for those who are severe, the only punishment is death.

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Sad Truth

One could reasonably argue that mental health can cause many misconceptions in the 1800s due to the institutionalization of a concentrated wave of indefinite treatment and mental health care. History impacted people’s views on mental illness, and that explained the stigma throughout the years. That is no wonder why some people are still afraid to express their conditions and somehow see themselves bounded to the historical norms. Though there is now this widespread awareness, mentally ill individuals can’t still find the right time and place to show it all. There are still some individuals that are too afraid to be judged and criticized by others. Sadly, there are still more than the population that does not entirely consider seeking help even if their symptoms badly affect their lives.

No person can blame those mentally ill patients. That feeling of being different and in need is so unbearable that it makes people want to deal with their battles alone. And the fact that they can easily grasp information from how history handled mental illness is far worse than they can imagine. But thankfully, there are counseling and therapies that are now promising these mentally ill people an avenue to become themselves and be better.

It is vital to understand the significance of the horrific and somewhat painful history of treating mental illnesses. If it were not for there, things would not be different in handling psychological conditions today. People should appreciate how the changes affect everyone’s lives. Because even if there are still uncertainties in the way experts treat and care for mental health problems, at least the current process is now more humane than the decades before.