Everyone has been to a hospital. Many people know what an asylum is. Some people know someone that has been to an asylum. Some people have visited an asylum. Before 1845, those asylums were nothing like today's. The mentally ill were put in horrible conditions and were treated the same as murderers. The mentally ill reform movement changed that. It made sure that the mentally ill were treated with care, and some of the tactics that were made at that time are still used to this day.
The mental reform movement was slow to start, but when it started, its effects were immediate. The mentally ill were either taken care of by family, or buy privately owned businesses, that were horrible. (“Prison and Asylum Reform”) People that were mentally ill went into prisons instead of hospitals. (“Prisons and Asylums”) These prisons used the Auburn System, in this system the prisoners would be kept in isolation unless they were working. (“Prisons and Asylums”) This system was named after the Auburn State Prison. (“Prisons and Asylums”) Eighty people kept in this system committed suicide or went mentally insane. (“Prisons and Asylums”) This started to make people think about the prisons, and who were in them.
There weren’t that many people that were in this reform, but the ones that were involved were very good at helping the mentally insane. Enoch Wines and Theodore Dwight were one of the first people to point out the flaws in the current system. They showed that the mentally handicapped were abused. They pointed this out in a report they published which outlined the guidelines that weren’t getting any results, and giving new guidelines that would get results. A majority of these guidelines were revolutionary and changed the way that the mentally ill were treated. (“Prisons and Asylums”) Dr. John Galt was one of the first doctors to employ some of those guidelines in his working. These included using talk therapy, talking to patients, and to try to understand them, instead of punishing them. He also tried to avoid having lifelong stays, he tried to focus on making his patients prepared for the world and releasing them when they were prepared. (“Prison and Asylum Reform”) The movement was made mostly of hospital workers and doctors wanting better conditions for their patients. Most of these also were from the New England area, as this is where the majority of the influential people lived. (“Prisons and Asylums”)
Dorothea Dix was arguably one of the most influential people that were in this movement. She was one of the few people that actually took action against these monstrosities. (“Prisons and Asylums”) She first found out about these conditions by going to teach at a prison. When she went to teach she found out that most of the people that were imprisoned, were there because they were mentally ill. (“Prisons and Asylums”) She did an investigation in Massachusetts from 1840-1841 to see how the mentally ill were treated. Her investigation revealed many horrible things that were done to them because they couldn’t do things they were instructed to do. (“Prisons and Asylums”) She did many other things to help the world too. She was made the “Superintendent of Nurses” during the Civil War on the Union side. (“Prison and Asylum Reform”) Dorothea Dix died in 1887. She died in one of the state hospitals she helped to create her entire life. She died at the age of eighty-five. (“Dorothea Dix Begins Her Reform”) There were many important events that occurred during the 1800’s that led to the mentally ill being treated. Dorothea Dix did many speeches to various governments to try to convince them to fund various state hospitals and studies. One of her most famous speeches was called “Memorial”. She gave the speech to the Massachusetts legislature to try to convince them to fund one or more state run hospitals. (“Dorothea Dix Begins Her Reform”) In her speech she described horrible conditions. One of the…