Mental Illness and Women in the 19th Century


Nowadays, it seems as though you can’t turn on the television without seeing an ad for a psychotropic medication.  These commercials promise that you’ll feel all better if you just take the right pill; all of your mental health issues will disappear as if by magic. While the efficacy of these modern treatments can be debated, they have not always been the first choice for treatment.  Many readers here may not have been born when former U.S. President Ronald Reagan defunded mental institutions, and thus don’t have any idea what went on in them.  Some places were very compassionate in their treatment of patients; others, not so much.  The main idea was to keep the seriously mentally ill safe themselves, as well as providing care that many families could not — especially in the cases where the person’s illness made them a danger to others. Sometimes, though, and especially for women, they could be institutionalized for not behaving in ways that were considered socially appropriate.  Women might be committed to mental institutions for being “quarrelsome” or having problems with neighbors.

Read the entire article in the March 2015 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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