Civil War treatment of mental health issues?

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Joined
Aug 25, 2012
We have all heard of asylums of the Civil War era and how horrid most of them were. But what about mental health issues that were not so bad that the person needed to go to an asylum? I think we all have heard of Sherman suffering from depression, or Sherman suffering a nervous breakdown, or of Sherman being crazy. What was the normal treatment at the time for a nervous breakdown? If it was only to rest, then I have to wonder if rest alone would be enough to help the person.

It appears that period drug could help with depression, but there would have been a real risk of becoming drug dependent. I assume some people used alcohol in an attempt to beat depression, but again addiction would be a risk.
 

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
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Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
But what about mental health issues that were not so bad that the person needed to go to an asylum? I think we all have heard of Sherman suffering from depression, or Sherman suffering a nervous breakdown, or of Sherman being crazy.

This is an interesting topic. As I understand it, Sherman was examined by the medical director under Halleck, who pronounced him unfit for duty. However, in the mid-19th century doctors didn't practice the kinds of diagnosis and treatment that are common today. They didn't even really have much of a notion of diagnosis, although there were some broad terms used, such as "melancholy" and "mania." I think the general approach was that each person is an individual and the treatment will depend mostly on the character of that individual. Thus Sherman was sent home to his family to recuperate. After several weeks, he was considered to have improved and returned to duty before too long.

Roy B.
 
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