Foul Play: The Abusive Horror of the Asylum System

by | Sep 16, 2023 | history, Non-Fiction | 0 comments

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Patricia Lubeck’s Asylum Scandals: Abuse, Torture, Corruption, and Murder takes a deep and systematic look at the abusive horror and negligence behind the asylum walls.

In the 19th century, in an attempt to contain the increasing number of mentally ill individuals, modern asylums were established. These institutions were created to be safe and restorative places for people with mental illness, who were, at the time, largely abandoned by broader society and the government to survive in deplorable conditions, whether it be inside a prison or a workhouse.

Because of the overall medical knowledge disseminated then, there was a pervasive belief that mental illness was the result of sustained moral weakness or a severe lack of discipline. Thus, people with mental illness were often viewed as indolent but unpredictably dangerous individuals. Most people who had mental illness or were identified to be suffering from one were shunned by more “civil” society.

As such, the creation of the asylum system was seen as a necessary outcome to better accommodate the growing trend of mental illness, as well as act as a specialized hospice that offered necessary medical care and mental health treatment.

Although now known for the abusive horror suffered by patients, the very first asylums were actually established under the auspices and principles of moral treatment. There was an emphasis on the treatment of patients with proper respect and dignity and the provision of a structured and supportive treatment that allowed for their recovery.

Patients were heavily encouraged to participate in activities and adopt personal hobbies such as gardening, sewing, art, and more. These experiences helped to relax the mind from cycling through the rigors of the outside world. 

Quickly, though, asylums became overcrowded because of an influx of patients and the needed workers to take care of them. The larger population meant that there would be plenty of people who were unqualified and unethical to slip through and become asylum employees.

Their collective views would soon spread, and behind the asylum walls, inhuman treatment and neglect would run rampant.

Abuse in the Asylum System

There is a long history of horrific abuse in asylums. In fact, old-timey asylums that were established in the 19th century are almost synonymous with abusive horror. This is ironic when one considers the noble intent of asylums in the first place: to become institutions that provide care and support for mentally challenged individuals. Now, abuse, neglect, and mistreatment are the legacies of asylums.

To control and prevent patients from harming themselves or others, they were often restrained or handcuffed. While innocuous enough on its own, the methods with which orderlies would attempt to restrain patients were painful, often leading to deep physical and psychological harm. Patients would sometimes go on for days or weeks under restraints, all without medical justification.

The use of seclusion was also another way for orderlies to contain and punish patients. The abuse involved isolating a patient in a locked room or cell for an extended period. It was often used as a form of punishment or control rather than for any medical reason. Secluded patients were repeatedly denied basic human needs such as food, water, and access to a restroom, leading to physical and psychological harm.; there are even reports that a lot of patients were sexually abused.

Beyond just abusing them physically, asylums also regularly subjected patients to intense emotional abuse. This could be through the constant hurling of verbal abuse and non-contact bullying by staff members, as well as from other patients. Patients were often made to feel helpless and powerless, which led to further psychological damage–a complete reversal of the founding ethos of the asylums.

The overuse of medication was also kept unchecked within asylums. Patients were often overmedicated, which resulted in altered states of mind that made them easily manipulated and abused. Medicine was used as a tool of control rather than as a means of recovery.

Learn more about the abusive horror within the asylum system with Patricia Lubeck’s Asylum Scandals, available in all major online bookstores.


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