Sample History Essay on the Madhouse

This is a true story film that seeks to unearth the facts about the Britain or the Victorian
Asylums. These were confinements for the mentally ill patients, and the documentary takes a
broad approach to explaining how they functioned and the ultimate reason for their closure. In
the society today, mentally ill patients are treated with dignity and respect as any other patients.
They are equal members of a society like everyone else. This was not the case during the past
decades when the madhouses or asylums were being used in Britain. Mentally ill patients were
dumped by their loved ones in these confinements, and the psychiatrists were left to care for
them. The documentary takes two distinct approaches in explaining the history of the Asylums.
First, they were hubs for medical discoveries and second, they were centers of brutality and
abuse. Whereas the current medical approach to successful treatment of medical illnesses has its
origin from the asylums, the brutality and abuse that happened in them is the most memorable
The British Asylums were meant for the mentally challenged patients. However, some of the
people confined in these facilities showed no sign of mental illness. For instance, Joan Tugwell
who had previously served in the army went to the asylum seeking medical attention after
suffering from trauma due to the effects of the war. She met people in the facility with no mental
problems. She only had a minor problem, but the psychiatrists in the asylum would turn it to be a
lifetime illness where she would stay confined for over 30 years. The mentally ill were treated as

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inmates instead of patients. For example, the doors remained closed always. One of the leading
researchers in High Royds Asylum gives testimony about an experience he witnessed when he
first entered the facility. A patient who had acted hysterically was abused to the extent of being
put under the water ("BBC Mental a History of the Madhouse Full Documentary."). The asylums
were made to look like prisons instead of hospitals.
Crude treatment methods were being discovered now and then. The public did not care
about the patients in the Asylums. This gave room for the nurses to abuse the patients. New
methods of treatment that were brutal would be tested on the patients (Hambrook). For example,
Electro Convulsive Therapy, Insulin Therapy, and Open Brain surgery were among the crude
treatment methods that claimed the lives of innocent patients after disastrous side effects. In the
late 1950s, new drugs were invented despite having some drawbacks due to side effects. The
invention of Largactil and Lithium as mental illnesses drugs marked the beginning of a
revolution where the asylums would be shut down. Other feasible treatment therapies such as
occupational therapy were invented. In the 1950s, the closure of the asylums was looming.
In conclusion, the documentary makes a consistent approach on the reasons leading to the
closure of the Asylums. The politicians realized that a lot of revenues were being channeled to
the facilities and their morality became questionable. In the 1970s, the parliament passed a law to
face out the asylums gradually, and in 1980s, few were closed. However, in the 1990s, they
started closing down and in 2003; High Royds was the last to be shut down. Being mentality ill
is not a condition that an individual chooses. Therefore, there is no reason to victimize such
patients. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and closure of the British asylums
was a great step towards respecting the mentally ill.

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Work cited

"BBC Mental a History of the Madhouse Full Documentary." YouTube, Uploaded by JLO
Productions, 15 August 2014,
Hambrook, Colin. Mental: A History of the Madhouse. 11 Jan 2011. 23 March 2017