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.


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