Life in the Victorian Asylum, The World of Nineteenth Century Mental Health Care

B2133

A thoughtful and provoking book that provides a detailed account of Victorian Mental Health care. It is also in part a depressing story because it shows how little mental health care has advanced over the last hundred years or so. This really is a book that everyone should read because everyone is potentially at risk, or has friends and family who develop mental health conditions. The mark of a truly civilized society is the support and care provided to the old, the sick and the vulnerable, to enable them to live with their difficulties. It is very easy to build a large bureaucratic organization that spends money like water, but fails to deliver the standard of care that is due and deserved.

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NAME: Life in the Victorian Asylum, The World of Nineteenth Century Mental Health Care
DATE: 070215
FILE: R2133
AUTHOR: Mark Stevens
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 176
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Mental health, hospitals, specialist hospitals, care in the community, social services, health care, secure hospitals, bedlams, bethel, Victorians, social stigma
ISBN: 1-78159-373-6
IMAGE: B2133.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/kzq5458
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: A thoughtful and provoking book that provides a detailed account of Victorian Mental Health care. It is also in part a depressing story because it shows how little mental health care has advanced over the last hundred years or so. This really is a book that everyone should read because everyone is potentially at risk, or has friends and family who develop mental health conditions. The mark of a truly civilized society is the support and care provided to the old, the sick and the vulnerable, to enable them to live with their difficulties. It is very easy to build a large bureaucratic organization that spends money like water, but fails to deliver the standard of care that is due and deserved.

When someone is missing a limb, or streaming blood from an open wound, or in the advanced stages of infection, even those lacking any medical skill can see that something is seriously wrong and requires urgent treatment. When that treatment has been delivered, the relative, or total, success can be seen. Mental illness is frequently invisible to the layman and often missed by the health professional. When treatment is given, it may be far from adequate and its relative success is rarely visible. These difficulties are all the more remarkable when the scale of mental illness is understood. Current research suggests that a majority of the population is suffering from some form of mental illness and that most cases go undiagnosed. Of those that are diagnosed, at least 40% have not been correctly diagnosed, treatment is frequently ineffective and inappropriate, any if this performance was repeated in any other area of health care the condemnation would be thunderous.

The Victorians did at least attempt to get a grip on mental health care, even if they were as reluctant to talk about as modern society is. They built large hospitals to care and accommodate mental health patients. The buildings were solid Victorian structures and equipped as comfortably as any other large public building. The dangers posed by some sufferers meant that incarceration was a requirement. Not unaturally, that meant that Victorian mental health hospitals shared features with Victorian buildings.

Some treatments common to Victorians are still in use today even though their effectiveness may be questioned. In other ailments, peer and public discussion would have forced efforts to find and employ more effective treatment. As the Victorians knew little about many mental health conditions, they not only lacked adequate treatment regimes, but they had little idea of how far a patient had improved. That inevitably led to mental health patients being held securely and institutionalized with no real prospect of release back into the community.

Then, as now, the people responsible for caring for mental health patients often lack the personal characteristics to provide that care compassionately or adequately. Far too many were little different from gaolers and treated their charges brutally, enjoying their power over the defenceless.

The author has done a very good job of painting a picture of Victorian attitudes and provision for mental health care. It may not always be the most comfortable story, but readers should attempt to draw from this excellent account and achieve a better understanding of mental health care, the need for compassion and a desire to improve treatment.

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