Our Mental Facilities 1800's project

February 21, 2014

Patients life

Filed under: Uncategorized —— Roehr, Gabriella @ 11:01 am

In 1830 the treatment called the “moral treatment” was used to treat mentally ill people. It made it so the patients could be comfortable and happy while staying at the mental hospital. So I got to thinking, I’ve done posts in the past talking about the treatments and conditions of the mental asylums, but I wondered, what did the patients do the rest of the time?

Some leisure activities included: Farming, working in the field, or taking care of farm animals for the men, and sewing, mending, or house hold chores for women. Also, they greatly encourage reading, for it relaxed the patients and was therapeutic. Families of the patients were greatly encouraged to visit their family members while they were staying in the mental hospital. The mental hospitals had many educational pastimes that the patients could do like, reading maps, and learning science and history.

Reading … is employed as a moral means in the
treatment of insanity. We adopt it as a measure which
serves to occupy the mind to the effacement of delusions
and morbid feelings, at least for a transitory period; it is,
in other words, one of the great revulsive modes of acting
upon the insane mind. Moreover, it serves as a pleasant
method of passing away time, and in this respect exerts a
tranquilizing effect on the individual [3].(John Galt). Reading was the most popular pastime as it was educational and entertaining, so most mental hospitals were equipped with a large library, some had up to 500 volumes! One hospital even had a “sewing party” where the women sewed items in their free-time and then sold the items and raised money for themselves and the other patients in the mental hospital.

For patients recovering from mania, Rush offered
the following suggestion:
“The return of regularity and order in the operation of
the mind will be much aided, by obliging mad people to
read with an audible voice, to copy manuscripts, and to
commit interesting passages from books to memory. By
means of the first, their attention will be more intensely
fixed upon one subject than by conversation. In this way
only, they comprehend what they read….” (1)

I’m glad the conditions are finally clearing up for these poor asylum patients! At least now they can have more of a normal life at the hospital. I read that even sometimes the men would be allowed to make shoes and go out and sell them. Also, I agree with Dr. Rush and John Galt, reading really is the perfect pastime for the patients. It doesn’t involve being social so there’s no reason for them to get violent and crazy, and it make them turn all their attention to what their reading so they can somewhat forget where they were for the moment being.



Dunkel, L. M. “Moral and Humane: Patients’ Libraries in Early Nineteenth-century American Mental Hospitals.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Medical Library Association, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.


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