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Understanding of Mental Illness Since the 1900s

By kaycee22 Nov 22, 2008 744 Words
The understanding of mental illness today since the early 1900s has changed significantly. In the 1900s, people still had no real understanding of what caused mental illnesses, let alone how to treat the disease. The disease was feared and was seen as incurable. Mentally ill patients would be sent to asylums, and as a form of treatment they were tortured. Until in the later 1900s, it was discovered that certain factors and drug therapy could be a treatment to cure the mentally ill. Today there are various forms of treatment and treatment settings for the different mental illnesses that help to benefit the patients’ condition.

During the 1900s people viewed mental illness as a disease of individual weakness or a spiritual disease, in which the mentally ill were sent to asylums. This was a temporary solution in hope to remove “lunatics” from the community. This caused a severe overcrowding, which led to a decline in patient care and reviving the old procedures and medical treatments. Early treatments to cure mental illness were really forms of torture. Asylums used wrist and ankle restraints, ice water baths, shock machines, straightjackets, electro-convulsive therapy, even branding patients, and the notorious lobotomy and “bleeding practice”. These early treatments seen some improvement in patients, although today this eras method of handling the mentally ill is considered barbaric, the majority of people were content because the “lunatics” were no longer visible in society.

In the mid-1900s, the discovery of psychological and drug methods had a rapid succession as a form of treatment and created a decline of patients in asylums. Psychiatrists of this era worked in the asylums practicing “moral treatment” or “moral management”, a humane approach at quieting mental turmoil, this then replaced the often-cruel treatment that then prevailed. This treatment was also based on the belief that the environment was a vital role. Replacing shackles, chains and cement walls, to create a more domestic feel with beds, pictures and decorations, where recovery would be more likely to occur if conditions and surroundings resembled the comfort of home. Also after the asylum population explosion, when the mental health treatment was at its worst, psychotropic medication had then established and introduced an anti-psychotic drug called Thorazine. Other psychotropic medications became available, making it possible to cut the length of time patients stayed in mental institutions. The breakthrough led to a decline in asylum populations, and the gradual discontinuation of less humane treatments and procedures. The changes of treatment brought about by drug therapy and psychological methods changed mental institutions procedures resembling the previous moral management revolution.

Nowadays treatment methods of mental illness usually help people to recover from their symptoms more quickly than the past by applying two main types of treatment, somatic therapy, and psychotherapy. Somatic therapy involves medication treatment, the medication works by changing the balances of the brain’s neurotransmitters, restoring the depressed patient to a normal level of functioning. Another form of Somatic therapy is electro convulsive therapy, which produces a current of electricity to the brain, and is usually used to treat severe depression, or sometimes schizophrenia, when drug treatment has failed. An additional method that is used very rarely is the controversial technique psychosurgery, or a lobotomy, in which fibers in the brain are severed. Psychotherapy improves the patient’s functioning by psychological means, or by altering the social environment. In this type of therapy the analyst helps the patient interpret their unconscious thoughts and focus on a resolution on restoring the patients mental health. The main methods of psychotherapy include psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive, supportive, group, rehabilitative, and play. Since these forms of treatment have proved to be most successful, more patients do not require inpatient hospital care and can be treated as outpatients and restore their lives.

In conclusion, the treatment of mental illness has advanced with research, medicine, and even legislation. During the 1900s mental illness was misunderstood and untreated, the mentally ill were removed from society and forgotten. As asylums became overpopulated, the early extreme forms of treatment had been reinforced to sustain the patients. After the discovery of more effective and humane ways of treatment, there was a decline of patients inhabiting the asylums. Nowadays by continuing to advance these treatments, patients are better understood and have better understanding of their mental illness, as well as being treated outside of hospitals; they have more of a chance of benefiting toward their recovery of their mental health.

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