Attitudes Toward Mental Illness
18th and 19th Century England
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, attitudes toward the mentally ill and their treatment varied throughout England. Almost all private and public asylums at this time upheld a policy of inhumane behavior towards patients, and questionable medical practices. The general public, for the most part, tolerated these methods, and even engaged in humiliating the mentally ill for entertainment. New techniques for treatment of the mentally ill emerged during this time in English history, which created differing views of healing methods. These mixed views on the appropriate way to address the population of insane people in England would affect the treatment of them throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The mentally ill were often times regarded as less than human, and because of that, they would be treated as if their life did not matter and live in the most appalling conditions. The shocking actions of private asylums were touched upon by an article written in Gentlemen's Magazine explaining how a person could be taken into a madhouse, to be stripped of their humanity and even clothes. “A person is forcibly taken, stripped naked and ties him down to a bed from which he is not released until he submits to their pleasure” (Doc 2). No one, no matter how powerful or respected would be spared from the incredible insensitivity directed toward the mentally ill. As shown by Countess Hartcourt, even King George III would be subjugated to the horrors of late 18th century abuse of the insane. “The patient was no longer treated as a human being. He was sometimes chained to a staple, and frequently beaten and starved” (Doc 6). the living conditions of a patient's cell in a madhouse were atrocious and completely disgusting. This is evidence that during this time, the lives of the mentally ill were not valued as much as the healthy. One example of just how filthy an asylum could be, comes from an...
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