GRAPHIC Psychiatric Care During The War

atlantis

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Nov 12, 2016
State hospitals did exist during that time how did they fare. With war raging all around did the combatants display compassion for those at the hospitals.
 

Dave DuBrucq

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Tennessee
State hospitals did exist during that time how did they fare. With war raging all around did the combatants display compassion for those at the hospitals.
Psychiatric Care during the Civil War was primitive at best. Mental hospitals were referred to as lunatic asylums for the most part and treatment was either non-existent or draconian. Mental institutions, such as they were, served more as dumping grounds for the mentally ill. There did not seem to be a great deal of empathy from the mainstream. I would expect these same attitudes were held by Civil War soldiers, many of whom suffered from post-war psychological issues themselves.
 

John Hartwell

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I recall reading some years ago of a "lunatic hospital" in Louisiana where the doctors and nurses had all run off, abandonning the inmates to the care of a handful of colored attendants. The latter went to the Union army and begged food to feed their charges, which was provided. This was mentioned in passing in a memoir, and I have no idea as to the eventual outcome. I imagine the occupying authorities had to take over responsibility for the establishment.

I'm afraid that the attitude of the general public towards the mentally ill had progressed little beyond the fear and loathing of the middle ages. The seeds of reform had been planted, however, and changes were in the wind. Among the leaders of the movement was Dorothea Dix. Well known to us as head of Union Army nurses, she is most famous in the world at large for her campaign for better treatment for the mentally ill, establishing some 20 hospitals that were among the most advanced of the day. She was a leading figure in the national and international movement that challenged the idea that people with mental disturbances could not be cured or helped.
 
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Red Raider

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Mark Grisham and David Donaldson wrote an excellent book called; Bedlam South. It is a Southern asylum during the Civil War. It is an excellent read and a lot of good information and sources.

 

Mrs. V

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I read a fictionalized account of women being sent out west to be brides for Native Americans, and several of the ladies came from asylums. Most of whom had be forced there by relatives, or admitted after experiencing too much tragedy..interesting read. “One thousand white women” Journal of Mary Dodd..had to go look it up! Which is what you get when you read..alot..
 

A. Roy

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I've tried doing a little research into psychiatric care during the Civil War. One interesting thing I've noticed is that most researchers in recent times have focused on trying to reinterpret soldiers' mental problems in terms of modern understanding about post-traumatic stress disorder.

It's harder to find information about how other psychiatric conditions were treated -- depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, schizophrenia, and so on. There is information out there, though. One thing I've learned is that in the mid-19th century psychiatry did not concern itself much with the idea of diagnosis, in the modern manner, where each patient must be classified according to guidelines in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). A doctor might have described a patient in terms of "melancholy" or "mania" or just "crazy," but patients were understood more on a personal kind of basis and were treated more as individuals who needed help, which could be given according to the individual's needs, rather than in some standardized way.

I'm talking about more routine, common kinds of psychiatric issues in which a person was capable of rational thought and was not a danger.

Roy B.
 

Peter Stines

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Nellie's Bly's expose of the horrible conditions in a home for the mentally ill was published in 1887 - I imagine things wer

Nellie's Bly's expose of the horrible conditions in a home for the mentally ill was published in 1887 - I imagine things were even worse 20 years before that.
Dickens was another advocate for the poor, the mentally ill and physically handicapped. In what I call his "big three" (Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby) Dickens attacked the times and perpetrators. Beatings, theft, denying food and other essentials presented "in your face". But the irony of it is Dickens all but abandoned his wife and family in his later years; pursuing a much younger woman.
 

Peter Stines

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Richard Lawrence, the failed assassin of then President Andrew Jackson was found NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF INSANITY. He was in several mental hospitals over the years. I'm trying to get more info on that. His last years were spent in St. Elizabeth's (better known as today's St.Elsewhere) He died in 1861. (I have the exact date but it 's not handy)
With all the digging I found VERY LITTLE on conditions, etc. Even Lawrence cause of death is not list available. I suspect pneumonia since he often let his stove go out and he was either sitting in his room in just his night shirt or naked. Insensitive to the cold
 
Richard Lawrence, the failed assassin of then President Andrew Jackson was found NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF INSANITY. He was in several mental hospitals over the years. I'm trying to get more info on that. His last years were spent in St. Elizabeth's (better known as today's St.Elsewhere) He died in 1861. (I have the exact date but it 's not handy)
With all the digging I found VERY LITTLE on conditions, etc. Even Lawrence cause of death is not list available. I suspect pneumonia since he often let his stove go out and he was either sitting in his room in just his night shirt or naked. Insensitive to the cold

I thought Dan Sickles' plea and subsequent finding by the court of "not guilty by reason of temporary insanity" in his 1859 murder trial was the first time that type of defense had been used in a criminal case.

Edited : My bad. Figured out there is a difference between "not guilty by reason of temporary insanity" and "not guilty by reason of insanity."
 
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Peter Stines

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The Trial was in 1835. Francis Scott Key Prosecution (Yes that one and the same) I have a copy of the Transcript. I' m not a lawyer but that whole trial sounded like a farce. Evidence was mishandled and Lawrence was allowed to rant, rave and interrupt the procedings.
And I suspect that mental hospitals (more like prisons) were mismanaged. Funds diverted and care was a joke.
 

Peter Stines

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I thought Dan Sickles' plea and subsequent finding by the court of "not guilty by reason of temporary insanity" in his 1859 murder trial was the first time that type of defense had been used in a criminal case.

Edited : My bad. Figured out there is a difference between "not guilty by reason of temporary insanity" and "not guilty by reason of insanity."
In Lawrence's case a dozen doctors and "specialists" were called up to examine and question him. One was a friend of President Jackson. No temporary insanity in the trial. As I understand it Lawrence was committed to prevent him from harming anyone or himself. He had a history of violent attacks and tried to kill his sister. He was jailed but released.
 

mofederal

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St. Elizabeth's opened officially in January 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane. It also served as a US Army Hospital during the war. Lawrence died on June 13, 1861. He was born in 1808. No cause of death is listed anywhere I could find. The hospital was originally opened to take care of indigent people in the district, and members of the US Army and Navy with brain illnesses.


40809422_125821021247.jpg
 

John Winn

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From what I've read "treatment" of mental disorders was brutal. They were seen as deviants who had to be trained (by use of force and punishment) to conform. Young patients who were born with serious disabilities were seen as simply damaged and were mostly just caged and treated like animals. That continued well into the twentieth century. Also, most asylums also took in TB patients so they were a mixed population in many places; TB was a common cause of death. I really don't think there was much of what we'd consider compassion.
 

Peter Stines

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St. Elizabeth's opened officially in January 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane. It also served as a US Army Hospital during the war. Lawrence died on June 13, 1861. He was born in 1808. No cause of death is listed anywhere I could find. The hospital was originally opened to take care of indigent people in the district, and members of the US Army and Navy with brain illnesses.


View attachment 391816
This headstone is in the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington DC. There are two other family members buried w/ him.
Ann Lawrence who died in 1847 was probably one of his sisters and Jane Francis Lawrence who died in 1808 and I tend to think this was his mother. Lawrence had a brother working at the navy yard in DC. Not sure what his name was but stories claim this brother still worked there up to or past 1861. I'd like to find him.
 

Peter Stines

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From what I've read "treatment" of mental disorders was brutal. They were seen as deviants who had to be trained (by use of force and punishment) to conform. Young patients who were born with serious disabilities were seen as simply damaged and were mostly just caged and treated like animals. That continued well into the twentieth century. Also, most asylums also took in TB patients so they were a mixed population in many places; TB was a common cause of death. I really don't think there was much of what we'd consider compassion.
I Tend to think these assylums were more of a "hiding place" to avoid social embarrassment for the wealthy. And to keep them from inheriting what was rightfully and legally theirs.
 

Peter Stines

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Gulf Coast of Texas
Wish I knew it. The name Joseph rings a bell. Might be worth a look at all with the name Lawrence. I found a fair amount using the Washington DC directory from 1835 onward. I believe there was a tobacco shop owned or run by a Lawrence. Hit a brick wall. Replot!!!!
 
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