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Rights of the Mentally


By: Heather Marion

Prehistoric times:
• Mental illnesses were assumed to be caused by
magical spirits
that interfered with the mind

• Rituals were used to coax the spirits out: exorcism,


Trephination tool: Skull after ritual:

Col oni al Am eri can soci ety :

• Referred to the mentally ill as “lunatics”

• Removed from society
• Horrible medical practices-ice bath, shocks to their brain, bleeding

Preparing for shock Empty room for bleeding practice:

“Age of Restraint”: 1770-1830

 During this time, the onset of mental illness was

thought to be the fault of the individual

 Treatments were purposefully unpleasant and distressing

 Since the patient was isolated from society and deemed

unable to think clearly for themselves, they were given no

 Daily life: Rooms like cells, barred windows, locked doors,

and chains on the walls

 Treatments: Restraints, cold bath plunges, cupping glasses,

Centrifuge therapy
Centrifuge therapy

Tranquilizing Chair

reatments during “Age of Restraint”)

Moral Management Era: mid 18th century

• Kindness and morality

• Reforms to protect the mentally ill begin…mostly led by Dorothy Dix

Dorothy Dix: -saw first hand how the mentally ill were treated and
dedicated her life to fight for better conditions
- traveled from state to state to campaign
- result: better, state-run hospitals built

• new found belief that environment played a

crucial role in curing the mentally ill = better
Moral Management Era cont…

• Civil War changes everything…thousands of soldiers come home

with mental illnesses (now known as PTSD)

• They are emotionally and socially ill and are sent to stay in the
mental hospitals…overcrowding is at times worse than before

• The mental hospitals are forced to resort to the old ways.. Restraints
and shock therapy are two of the first procedures to resurface.
-In order to compensate for the wave of soldiers,
asylums begin to open all over the country
 Huge decline in patient care….no more individual rooms, locked and
stacked cribs

 The lobotomy was first introduced in the early 1930s. Later the
trans-orbital lobotomy was used which was faster and required less
patient care but was also much more deadly
Dei nstituti onal izati on

 1954, the anti-psychotic drug Thorazine began to be used

-shortens time of stay in mental institutions
-leads to better treatments

 The term used to describe mental patients moving out of the

institutions and into the community is called deinstitutionalization.

Positive aspects = outpatient services, single day/night hospitalization,

diagnostic services, more extensive research and training.

Negative aspects = mentally ill were released to families, individuals

pushed out of institutions that shouldn’t have been
Community Mental Health Centers

 In 1963, John F. Kennedy signed the Community

Mental Health Centers Act into law.

 The law insisted on a national system of care to

adequately meet the needs of mentally ill individuals

 Step in the right direction but… the act did not cover
the needs of ALL mental patients since it offered
psychotherapy to only non-chronic sufferers.

Those who need help the most (the severely mentally

ill) were overlooked
Willowbrook Institution
 State-run institution on Staten Island, NYC
 The problems there were brought to the public’s attention
by investigative reporter Geraldo Rivera in 1972

 HORRIBLE conditions…
-Poor living conditions
-Poor health
Video of former Willowbrook resident

esult: The signing of a consent judgment in Federal Court in 1975

Ref or m Law s to pr otect the ri ghts of the

mental l y i ll

 In 1977, President Jimmy Carter created the President’s

Commission on Mental Health

 Held meetings to discuss how to help the mentally ill

 Led to the establishment of the Mental Health Systems Act in


 Also in 1980, the rights of the mentally ill were again brought
into focus with the passing of the Civil Rights of
Institutionalized Persons Act
Happy ending?

Society is finally beginning to

understand that mental illnesses can
be adequately dealt with and that
those with illnesses can be a fully
functioning part of our society. People
no longer see mental illness as a
character flaw or personal failing.
There are many professionals,
legislators, and advocates, who are
helping spread the word that people
with mental illnesses should have the
same treatment, independence, and
freedom that each of us deserve.