Lunatic Asylums 1

Tie them keeper in a tether,
Let them stare and stink together:
Both are apt to be unruly,
Lash them daily, lash them duly,
Though 'tis hopeless to reclaim them,
Scorpion Rods perhaps may tame them.

Jonathan Swift

A few towns had towers called Narrentürme or "fools' tower".
The "Tower of Fools", where the city sent their insane during
the late 18th Century, still stands in Vienna.

Constructed in 1784, the Lunatics’ Tower became a showplace.
Elaborately decorated, it contained square rooms in which
the staff lived and the patients were housed in the spaces
between the walls of the rooms and the wall of the tower. 

The winding corridors seem to echo with the pain of
the 140 inmates who were chained to the walls
and provided only with straw mats for sleeping.
Treated as animals and considered dangerous,
they were put on display for public amusement.

Iron cuffs and collars permitted just enough movement
to allow patients to feed themselves but not enough to lie
down at night, so they were forced to sleep upright.

The phrase snake pit — slang for “mental hospital”— stems
from these early custodial days, when the insane were thrown
into a serpent-filled hole to shock them back to their senses.

Bake-well relates an instance from his practice where
"a maniac confined in a room over my own . . . bellowed
like a wild beast, and shook his chain almost constantly
for several days and nights. . . . I therefore got up,
took a hand whip, and gave him a few smart stripes upon
the shoulder. . . . He disturbed me no more."

The Darwin-Coxe Machine was used to swing the insane
until they were quiet and by "increasing the velocity of the swing,
the motion be[ing] suddenly reversed every six or eight minutes,
pausing occasionally, and stopping its circulation suddenly:
the consequence is, an instant discharge of the contents of
the stomach, bowels, and bladder, in quick succession."

Around the mid-1700s, the Dutch Dr. Boerhaave invented
the “gyrating chair” and it became a popular tool in Europe
and the United States. Spinning at speeds of up to 100 revolutions
a minute, it was intended to shake up the blood and tissues
of the body to restore equilibrium increase the blood supply to the brain.

Even the obstinate cases could not long resist its powers:
if necessary it could be "employed in the dark, where,
from unusual noises, smells, or other powerful agents,
acting forcibly on the senses, its efficacy might
be amazingly increased."

In practice, it rendered the patient unconscious without any
recorded successes. There were also reports of
blood oozing
from their mouths, ears and noses.

The suggestion by Dutch physician Hermann Boerhaave
that near-drowning be employed for its salutary effects gave birth
to a variety of ingenious devices designed to produce this effect:
hidden trapdoors in corridors designed to plunge the unsuspecting
lunatic into a "bath of surprise" as well as coffins with holes
drilled in their lids, into which the patient could be fastened
before being lowered under water.

Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738), the renowned medical teacher
of Leiden (The Netherlands), said, “The greatest Remedy for
it [mental illness] is to throw the Patient unwarily into the Sea,
and to keep him under Water as long as he can possibly bear
without being quite stifled.”

Benjamin Rush devised the tranquilizer chair- the patient
was strapped into the chair and a wooden hood
was placed over his head. The goal was to calm the patient
by restricting his sensory input.

Johann Reil coined the word “psychiatry” (healing of the soul).
Prior to this, practitioners were known as "alienists".
Reil's “psychic treatments” included massage, whipping,
flogging and opium as well as throwing patients into water
while at the same time firing cannons to restore them to their senses.

He also invented the hollow wheel. Patients were placed inside
for 36-48 hours and could either remain stationary or run forward or backward.

- tbc -

State of the Art treatments

a history of mental illness and treatments


1 comment:

  1. Now they guess at some mind altering, brain numbing medication with many types and numerous side affects to remove certain ones from society!