U.S. History Beginnings to 1877
Final Research Paper
Reformation of Asylums
Through out history, examples of the general subservience felt towards people, ideas, and customs that have deviated from the social norm are immeasurable. However, it is arguable that the reformation of asylums in America was one of the largest and most crucial accomplishments in United States humanities.
In early colonial American there was no distinguishable difference between the treatment of criminals and the mentally ill. Instead, mental illness was believed to be the result of a demonic possession or witchcraft. The scientific evidence opposing this way of thinking did not exist so there was no attempt at aiding these individuals. One historian describes the treatment of the mentally ill stating,
The insane… were usually lumped with other dependent people- beggars, vagrants, the elderly, and the handicapped- and dealt with by local officials in a haphazard and unsystematic fashion. Some were given outright financial support and cared for by their families. Others were, in effect, auctioned off to neighboring families who provided basic needs in exchange for monetary compensation. Still others were housed in poorhouses. In some instances the insane were confined to jails or prison-like structures. (http://www.bipolarworld.net/Bipolar%20Disorder/History/hist5.htm).
In these places the people were often caged, beaten, chained, and neglected. It was also the common belief those suffering from mental illness were making a conscious choice to be and act irrationally. The few treatments that were available reflected this sentiment hoping to get them to no longer desire the condition. Restraints, dunk tanks, harsh drugs, intimidation, bleeding, and tranquilizing chairs were only a few of the most favored remedies. Fortunately, under many of the movements during Antebellum Reform arose a new wave of forward thinking individuals that questioned the society they were a...