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Unspeakable Times
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Life in a 19th Century Mental Institution Was Basically Torture

Updated 3 Dec 2019 108.1k views13 items

The 19th century was a time of reform in the mental health field. This era saw a fundamental change in the philosophy of care, and the creation of massive new insane asylums along with it. The moral treatment theory of psychiatry sought to minimize the use of restraints, encourage a level of self-sufficiency, and basically treat the insane as humans instead of animals.

This new line of thinking led to the building of large-scale asylum structures that still stand today. These buildings marked a decided improvement for their patients. Previously, the insane were typically kept in small almshouses or even jails, where they might be chained to the walls in rooms with no heating or ventilation. In the 19th century, social reformers like Dorothy Dix made it their mission to construct and improve state-run mental asylums.

But despite some early successes, 19th century mental institutions often fell short of their utopian goals. The idea that these institutions would cure patients proved unrealistic, and they soon turned into a new type of cage for their inhabitants. This is what life was actually like for the patients of these institutions.

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