English 10 H
23. Sept. 2014
The concerns for individuals suffering from mental illness has been an issue since the First Revolution. During the Colonial Era, those affected with a mental disorder were referred to as “lunatics”; that their insanity was brought on by the full moon and that they were afflicted by the devil. (Leupo 1). Many regarded these people as a possible danger, and saw to their institutionalization. In the 1960’s, a series of reforms were set in regards to human rights and the treatment of those locked away. Nowadays, we have numerous medical advancements being made, along with specialized evaluation and treatment plans for those living with mental illness. Before hospitals had a clear understanding of how to effectively treat mental illness, there were a number of practices taking place that today’s society would consider inhumane. In order to try and remove a patient’s intense, troubling feelings and/or thoughts, it was considered necessary to undergo cathartic medical treatment. This included the practice of “bleeding” in which the individual’s bad blood was drained, often resulting in the need for lifelong care or death. Lobotomy, or cutting of the prefrontal part of the brain was a process referenced in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest; “The ward doors opened, and the black boys wheeled in this Gurney with a chart at the bottom that said in heavy black letters, ‘MCMURPHY, RANDLE P. POST-OPERATIVE.’ And below this was written in ink, ‘LOBOTOMY’” (269). Another medical procedure involved a patient being submerged into an ice bath until they lost Casey 2 consciousness. These procedures were then transformed and took into account the ethical treatment of the mentally ill. Around the turn of the 19th century, Moral Management was established. This approach created a more domestic and comforting feel, “…pictures and decorations replaced shackles, chains and cement cells” (Leupo 1). In this time period, phrenology was introduced and used to study the shape of the brain in order to explain and diagnose illnesses. This gave patients leniency and with that caused them to exhibit unruly behavior. In order to take control of the situation, recreational activities were eventually formulated. Asylums were appearing all over the country after the Civil War with the increase of inflicted persons. The population increase caused overcrowding and a decline in patient care, eventually leading to the start-up of old medical treatments. Walter J. Freeman developed the trans-orbital lobotomy, a quick procedure that required little patient after-care. However, the lobotomy was referred to as “psychic mercy killing” due to the resulting number of complications. (Leupo 3). In 1954, when mental health was at its worst, an anti-psychotic named Thorazine was introduced. Following this, other drugs were invented and helped to determine a patient’s required length of residency. This influenced a significant decline in asylum populations and with that the gradual cessation of inhumane procedures. This led to the breakthrough of the medical advancements that we now have today. In our modern society, there has been a significant increase in the treatment of mental illness. This stems from the understanding we’ve been able to acquire throughout the years.