Photo by Mental Health America (MHA)
Asylum Scandals by Patricia Lubeck explores the long and dark history of asylums, but how do we as a society move on and create safe spaces for our mentally ill?
Asylums have had a very, shall we say, storied past. The very mention of them inspires a pervasive dread: stark hallways, patients wailing in straitjackets, cold-faced doctors, and the like. Of course, while much of what the popular zeitgeist imagines to be asylums is poppycock and deliberate embellishment, there is some truth to their horror and the terrible happenings that have happened within them.
Otherwise known as psychiatric hospitals, asylums have had a long and dark history; in the past, they were often seen as places where people with mental illness were locked away, often in inhumane conditions. However, in recent years, there has been a growing movement to reform these important mental health institutions and make them more humane and effective safe spaces for treating mental illness.
A Humane Institution for Mental Health
If we really want to create safe spaces that promote mental wellness and wellbeing, here are some issues that need to be discussed and considered:
- Overcrowding. A serious obstacle to making safe spaces inside psychiatric hospitals is that there are too many people. This can lead to poor sanitation, inadequate care, and increased violence. To fix this problem, governments and mental health organizations need to invest in building more mental health facilities and expanding community-based mental health services to better accommodate a growing population.
- Incompetence. In the past, it was quite easy for untrained individuals to work in asylums and, therefore, bring many problems. Staff at mental health institutions need to be appropriately trained in how to care for people with mental illness. This training should include courses on mental health conditions, crisis intervention, and de-escalation techniques. Staff should also be trained to create safe spaces and a supportive patient environment.
- Treatment. Psychiatric hospitals should always provide patients with evidence-based treatment for their mental illness–before if a doctor had a “theory,” he could just perform it on his patients without much pushback. Treatments should be tailored to the individual needs of each patient and should be delivered by qualified mental health professionals.
- Patients’ Rights. Patients at asylums should have a say in their treatment and should be able to make decisions about their lives inside and outside the institution. This includes choosing their therapist, setting goals for their treatment, and deciding when they are ready to be discharged.
Real Life Reforms
Of course, the above are only recommendations and assessments based on historical and progressive trends. Here are some specific examples of how asylums are being reformed right now:
- In the United States, many states are moving towards a system of community-based mental health care. Under this system, people with mental illness are treated in their communities rather than being hospitalized. This has led to a decrease in the number of people in state psychiatric hospitals and an increase in better outcomes for many patients.
- In Europe, many countries have adopted a human rights approach to mental health care. This means that people with mental illness have the same rights as everyone else, including the right to make decisions about their treatment and the right to be treated with dignity and respect. This not only serves to address public concerns about proper mental care, but it also serves to assure individuals that they will be treated well.
Safe Spaces for the Mentally Ill
Continue to advocate for people with mental illness. Volunteer for programs. People with mental illness and their advocates need to speak out about their experiences and advocate for change. This will help to raise awareness of the problems with asylums and the need for reform.
By taking these steps, we can create a more humane and effective mental health system for everyone.
If you want to know more about the dark history of asylums, check out Asylum Scandals by Patricia Lubeck.