In the 1800s, people with mental disorders were simply deemed as “crazy”. They were usually believed to be possessed by evil spirits, or even the devil himself. Practices such as exorcism were not uncommon among this group of people, along with lobotomies, skull drilling, and even cruel isolation. “Many of the drastic procedures that have been put in place to relieve a person of mental illness are only successful in creating ‘vegetables’ out of patients, not curing their illness but making them ghosts of their previous selves.” (Stanley, 2016) Dorothea Dix changed how society viewed mentally disabled individuals. She was a “humanitarian, reformer, educator and crusader.” (Reddi, n.d.) Dorothea Dix was a woman who loved to stand up for what she believed, and made a difference in the world. She protected those who needed protection, loved those who needed love, and understood the misunderstood. Without the dedication she gave, the treatment of mental sickness and female criminals would be far from what it is today. She decided to stand up for the minorities that she connected with and changed how society viewed them. She was able to see first hand what mental illness was like, and struggled with it herself. Dorothea Dix was born in 1802 to a family that did not show her the love every child deserves. Because of this, her grandmother in Boston adopted her when she was twelve years old. Her love for children inspired her to have a preschool within her grandmother’s home by the
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Illness is one of the few experiences that all humans have in common and generally is met with empathy. However, people who suffer from mental illness are not privy to this treatment. For centuries, mental disorders have been demonized and stigmatized even in the modern era where humans have a much better understand of the mechanisms of the mind. Before the advent of psychiatry in the eighteenth-century people believed that mental illness was actually demonic possession resulting in the ostracization and murder of the mentally ill in the name of God. The Victorian era was met with a different view of mental illness, in that it was understood that it was a malady of the mind and people needed constant medical treatment, thus federally mandated asylums were created. Since mental illness was not understood there was a lot of misconceptions and fear surrounding the field. It is no surprise that the master of macabre and the creator of Horror, Edgar Allen Poe, decided to explore themes of mental illness in his stories. Poe’s most famous story about mental illness was The Fall of the House of Usher, where the main characters are plagued with an undisclosed mental malady. Through Poe’s use of point of view, style, tone, and tropes, he painted a perfect picture of the Victorian view of the mentally ill and the mind of the artist which was believed to be different faces of the same coin.
Many years ago, mental illness was viewed as a demonic possession or a religious punishment. In the 18th century, the attitudes towards mental illness were negative and persistent. This negativity leads to the stigmatization and confinement of those who were mentally ill. The mentally ill were sent to mental hospitals that were unhealthy and dangerous. A push in the mid 1950s for deinstitutionalization began because of activists lobbying for change. Dorothea Dix was one of these activists that helped push for change. The change called for more community oriented care rather than asylum based care. The Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963 closed state psychiatric hospitals throughout the United States. "Only individuals who posed an imminent danger to themselves or someone else could be committed to state psychiatric hospitals" (A Brief History of Mental Illness and the U.S. Mental Health Care System). Deinstitutionalization meant to improve quality of life and treatment for those who are mentally ill. This would hopefully result in the mentally ill receiving treatment so they could live more independently. The hope was that community mental health programs would provide this treatment but sadly there was not sufficient or ongoing funding to meet the growing demand for these programs. Budgets for mental hospitals were reduced but there was no increase for the community based programs. Many mentally ill individuals have been moved to nursing homes or other residential
"There are few cases in history where a social movement of such proportions can be attributed to the work of a single individual" (Kovach) At the age of thirty-nine, a woman by the name of Dorothea Dix devoted the rest of her life as an advocate to the humane attitude toward the mentally ill. She traveled the world from state to state visiting each and every prison, almhouse, asylum, orphanage, and hidden hovel documenting everything and anything she saw. After her intricate study of what she had been a witness of she wrote a letter or "memorial" and presented it to a legislator she knew who would present it to each legislature in each state she had studied. Dorothea Dix was the pioneering force in the movement to reform the
Dorothea Lynde Dix was born on April 4, 1802, in Hampden, Maine (1). She grew up in a religious home with her two siblings and her mother, Mary Bigelow Dix and her father, Joseph Dix. With her father being a distributor of religious tracts, Dix had to help stich and paste them together. She did not enjoy this chore. At the age of 12, Dix left her home and moved in with her aunt. She left to escape from an emotionally absent mother and an abusive father (2). Dorothea Dix had a hard childhood and became sensitive to others hardships due to the abuse of her father. After leaving, “She began teaching school at age 14. In 1819, she returned to Boston and founded the Dix Mansion, a school for girls, along with a charity school that poor girls could attend for free. She began writing textbooks, with her most famous, Conversations on Common Things, published in 1824 (1).” She enjoyed teaching and was accustomed to it due to having to watch her siblings during her parents “episodes”. Dorothea Dix suffered
From being held against the inmate's will to being chained into cells. To the patients, in the mental hospitals, that had to endure neglect, abuse, and starvation. Dorothea Dix was a reformer that cared and tended to the needs of the mistreated. She did this gain better treatment and inequality for those who did not have a voice. Dix portrayed an important role of hospitals, reforming mental hospitals and insane asylums, and reform
To begin with by examining Diox firmness, mentality , and heroic personality it was clear that Dorothea Dix was able to stop injustice going on in the East Cambridge prison. It all began that same year Diox and some friends travel to england, returning home different not the same girl she was when she left home. She had different interests, new approaches to the treatment of insane. Diox took a job teaching inmates in an East Cambridge prison, where the conditions were so abysmal and the treatment for prisoners so inhumane, that she began agitating at once their improvement. Prisoners at that time were unregulated and unhygienic, with violent criminals housed side by side with mental illness. Diox later on she began to visit every public and
Today, it seems almost incomprehensible that so many people with serious mental illnesses reside in prisons instead of receiving treatment. Over a century and a half ago, reform advocates like Dorothea Dix campaigned for prison reform, urging lawmakers to house the mentally ill in hospitals rather than in prisons. The efforts undertaken by Dix and other like-minded reformers were successful: from around 1870 to 1970, most of the United States’ mentally ill population was housed in hospitals rather than in prisons. Considering reformers made great strides in improving this situation over a century and a half ago. Granted, mental hospitals in the late 19th and early 20th century were often badly run and critically flawed, but rather than pushing for reform of these hospitals, many politicians lobbied for them to close their doors, switching instead to a community-based system for treating the mentally ill. Although deinstitutionalization was originally understood as a humane way to offer more suitable services to the mentally ill in community-based settings, some politicians seized upon it as a way to save money by shutting down institutions without providing any meaningful treatment alternatives. This callousness has created a one-way road to prison for massive numbers of impaired individuals and the inhumane warehousing of thousands of mentally ill people. Nevertheless, there are things that can be done to lower the rate mentally ill persons are being incarcerated. Such
In Bly’s time, mental illnesses were not taken seriously. Bly described the asylum she was admitted to as overcrowded, cold, and dirty (ch. 7). It defeated the purpose of trying to give extra attention to those in need. It was easy to get admitted into an institution, but nearly impossible to make it out because the treatment was not treatment.
Dorothea Dix was a woman who stood for the treatment and housing conditions of prisoners and the mentally ill.She observed and documented what she had seen and experienced. Her documentation changed her audiences minds and started the reform.
Dorothea Lynde Dix was salient to the development of both the Reform and Civil War Eras that she lived during, and to the overall United States. Moreover, Dorothea Dix had minor, but crucial, contributions to the education of children during her early years, which would help her effort in creating different perspective and establishing institutions for the mentally ill. Her onerous efforts even required her to plead to the State Legislative body, which was essential in achieving her goals for the mentally ill. In addition, Dix contributed to the Civil War when she was appointed superintendent of nurses for the Union army. Dix’s action would leave a permanent mark to the character of the United States when she helped form institutions for the mentally ill and wrote the “Bill of the Benefit of the Indigent Insane.”
The mentally ill were cared for at home by their families until the state recognized that it was a problem that was not going to go away. In response, the state built asylums. These asylums were horrendous; people were chained in basements and treated with cruelty. Though it was the asylums that were to blame for the inhumane treatment of the patients, it was perceived that the mentally ill were untamed crazy beasts that needed to be isolated and dealt with accordingly. In the opinion of the average citizen, the mentally ill only had themselves to blame (Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health, 1999). Unfortunately, that view has haunted society and left a lasting impression on the minds of Americans. In the era of "moral treatment", that view was repetitively attempted to be altered. Asylums became "mental hospitals" in hope of driving away the stigma yet nothing really changed. They still were built for the untreatable chronic patients and due to the extensive stay and seemingly failed treatments of many of the patients, the rest of the society believed that once you went away, you were gone for good. Then the era of "mental hygiene" began late in the nineteenth century. This combined new concepts of public health, scientific medicine, and social awareness. Yet despite these advancements, another change had to be made. The era was called "community mental health" and
Throughout history, mental illness has been labeled as a defining deformity, that harnesses in its “victims,” into a box, parallel to the familiar “mime in a box” image. In a world where we glorify “normality,” a lack of illness, which by all means is a gift, the beauty of one mind takes away from the beauty of an outlier, even though, ironically people may not even recognize their differences. Hester, at a glance suffers from a literal scarlet letter, but an imprint on her brain may exist as well. Irrational actions, sudden emotional episodes, and destructive thoughts can only prevail for so long following sin; Hester’s persona has branches of self-defeating personality disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. No one of her time, however, will bring the issue to light, Hester will be left known as the mistress, a witch, or “A,” rather than to explore her “complicated” condition. As decades pass, Hester’s state will remain, as the “A,” the mark of the stigma on mental illness today. When left neglected, society rejects the possibility that under a visible coating, mental deformities may lie; those who are divergent, who require affection more, are made subordinate, marginalized with no quest for a cure.
Unfortunately, asylum founders could only guess at the causes of insanity. Patient after patient was admitted into the state hospitals, but the cause of their disturbance was often a mystery. Many were inflicted with various organic diseases, like dementia, Huntington’s disease, brain tumors, and many were in the third stage of syphilis. With no treatments available, providing humane care was all that could be done. In the years following the civil war American cities boomed and the asylum began struggling to keep up. Soldiers, freed slaves, and immigrants were stranded in a strange land. The asylum became organized more like a factory or small town. There were upper and lower classman, bosses and workers, patients with nothing, and patients with privileges. Sarah Burrows, a schizophrenic and daughter of a wealthy doctor had a ten bedroom house that was built for her on the hospital grounds. Burrows home was just a stone’s throw away from the hospital’s west wing, where over sixty black women slept side by side. (Asylum: A History of the Mental Institution in America). The hospital began to rely on the free labor the patients provided. However, isolating the hospital from the community meant there was no way of knowing what was happening inside the asylum. The asylum became a world apart. In the 1870’s, Elizabeth Packard, a former patient of St. Elizabeth’s, wrote about her mistreatment and abuse
Born in 1802, Dorothea Dix played an important role in changing the ways people thought about patients who were mentally-ill and handicapped. These patients had always been cast-off as “being punished by God”. She believed that that people of such standing would do better by being treated with love and caring rather than being put aside. As a social reformer, philanthropist, teacher, writer, writer, nurse, and humanitarian, Dorothea Dix devoted devoted her life to the welfare of the mentally-ill and handicapped. She accomplished many milestones throughout her life and forever changed the way patients are cared for. She was a pioneer in her time, taking on challenges that no other women would dare dream of tackling.