Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

The history of physical treatment in mental health care


The history of physical treatment in mental health care settings can be argued as one of violent and unpleasant sufferings. Mentally ill patients were believed to have been possessed by devils or bewitched. Blood letting, purging, blistering and cold baths, for example, were often normal remedies as these interventions

were thought to relieve madness. Manacles, shackles and restraint devices were commonly used to manage disturbed behaviour. For a detailed account of physical

treatment in mental health care of the past see Fennell, which traces the history of treatment of mental disorder over the last 150 years in the UK, and Jones

, which includes the treatment of mentally ill people in this revision of the history of mental health services; both are worthwhile texts. These texts provide an excellent historical overview of care and treatment that would bring the reader to the current trend in mental health care. On the history of psychiatry provides an account of how attitude and behaviour shaped the views of mental illness in the past.

However, developments in the passage of time (from the Victorian era) in the understanding of mental disorder or distress have changed radically. Present-day

treatment options have also changed beyond recognition from the past. Insanity or madness is now defined in medical terms as mental illness. Since the early 1970s,

the acceptance of mental illness into mainstream medicine has been symbolised by the presence of psychiatric wards in general hospitals.

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