What Did the Inside of American 1800s Asylums Look Like?

Question by : What did the inside of american 1800s asylums look like?
I would like to know what the inside of an 1826 mental patient’s room might look like. I’m pretty sure they were not padded until 1839, correct?
So–what would it have been like? Does anybody know?
How about a more violent patient?

Best answer:

Answer by Charles K
The first actual mental asylum in America opened in 1769 under the guidance of Benjamin Rush, who became known as “America’s first psychiatrist.” Benjamin Rush, who became known as America’s first psychiatrist was a professor at America’s first psychiatric hospital in 1769. This hospital, located in Williamsburg, Virginia was to be the only such institution in the country for fifty years. Rush graduated from Princeton University at the age of fifteen, and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh in his twenties. He outlawed the use of whips, chains and straitjackets and developed his own methods for keeping control. Looking at some of his methods, we may feel he was quite harsh, but in his day his methods were considered exceedingly humane. The tranquilizing chair seen above (National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD drawing) was a device intended to heal by lowering the pulse and relaxing the muscles. It was designed to hold the head, body, arms and legs immobile for long periods of time and enable the patient to settle.
The gyrator, as its name suggests was a contraption similar to a spoke on a wheel. The patient was strapped to the board head outward and the wheel was rotated at a high rate of speed, sending the blood racing to his head and supposedly relieving his congested brain. The circulating swing worked similar to the gyrator with the patient bound in place in a sitting position. Looking back it is obvious the treatments were still primitive, but a change had been made.
Nearly fifty years later America’s second asylum was built near Philadelphia by the Quakers and was called “The American Friends’ Asylum”. This asylum, and others that followed embraced the teaching of Englishman William Tuke in providing “moral treatment” for its patients. No chains were used and violent patients were separated from the others. In 1841 Dorothy Dix, an American woman, appalled at the conditions in jails and mental institutions where the mentally ill were housed began a forty-year quest to champion the mentally ill. Through her efforts more than thirty hospitals for indigent patients with mental illnesses were built.
In the 1800’s, people were being put into mental institutions for all kinds of things: wives and daughters who did not obey their husbands or fathers were sent there, as were “angry people,” alcoholics, people with depression, women in menopause, people caught masturbating, and certainly disobeying the status quo was grounds for questioning one’s mental health also. From 1840 to 1890, reports claim the amount of people hospitalized for mental illness leapt from 2,500 to 74,000. http://users.resist.ca/~kirstena/pagegraves.html ———— Prison and Asylum Reform Thus, her crusade for humane hospitals for the insane, which she began in 1841, was reaching a climax. After touring prisons, workhouses, almshouses, and private homes to gather evidence of appalling abuses, she made her case for state-supported care. Ultimately, she not only helped establish five hospitals in America, but also went to Europe where she successfully pleaded for human rights to Queen Victoria and the Pope.Dorothea Dix, a tireless crusader for the treatment of the mentally ill, was made the Superintendent of Nurses for the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, she retired to an apartment in the first hospital that she had founded, in Trenton, New Jersey.The year 1841 also marked the beginning of the superintendence of Dr. John Galt at Eastern Lunatic Asylum, in Williamsburg, Virginia, the first publicly supported psychiatric hospital in America. Warehousing of the sick was primary; their care was not. Dr. Galt had many revolutionary ideas about treating the insane, based on his conviction that they had dignity. Among his enlightened approaches were the use of drugs, the introduction of “talk therapy” and advocating outplacement rather than lifelong stays.
In addition to the problems in asylums, prisons were filled to overflowing with everyone who gave offense to society from committing murder to spitting on the street. Men, women, children were thrown together in the most atrocious conditions. Something needed to be done http://www.ushistory.org/us/26d.asp Insane Asylums What would have seen you sent to an insane asylum years a years ago would seem quite unbelievable to a semi educated person today. For instance, in the 1800’s you could be institutionalized for a wide variety of things: Wives and daughters who did not obey their husbands or fathers could be put away, alcoholics, depressed people, “angry people”, women in menopause, and people going against the norm would also have seen their freedom and dignity evaporate before them and be sent away and institutionalized. So as you can see, you may just be able to find one of your ancestors in a mental institution even though they really were not “insane”. http://www.blacksheepancestors.com/usa/insane.shtml —— McLean Hospital was founded on Feb. 25, 1811, through a charter granted by the Massachusetts Legislature for the “Massachusetts General Hospital Corporation.” http://www.mclean.harvard.edu/about/history/ From its inception, the Corporation intended to treat both physical and mental illnesses, with a separate facility for each. Fundraising campaigns were held between 1812 and 1816, and a majority of the contributors earmarked their donations for the establishment of a facility to treat mental illnesses.http://www.mclean.harvard.edu/about/history/

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