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Drawings of ‘mental illnesses’ from 1840

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“Female patient suffering from erotomania, 1843.”

Science is a bit like Doubting Thomas—it has to see the evidence before believing it. And sometimes even then it is just theories about what was or was not seen.

Way back in the early 1800s, many scientists thought it an idea to use visual representation, through illustrations and engraving, to help codify the system of identifying say, organs, bones, types of disease, and even mental illness. For example, a drawing of someone suffering from buboes caused by the pox would help diagnose a patient with similar buboes also caused by the pox. It was a logical, well-intended, and noble idea, one that helped create the many books on anatomy and disease which progressed the development of medicine from the 1700s on—most notably Gray’s Anatomy in 1858.

The physician and alienist, Sir Alexander Morison (1779—1866) pioneered the documentation of psychiatric illness during the early to mid-1800s. An “alienist” is the archaic term for a psychiatrist or psychologist. Morrison was inspecting physician at the Surrey Asylum and Bethlehem Hospital. He excelled in the diagnosis and treatment of those poor unfortunate people who suffered from mental illness. He was a wise and kindly old gent, who wrote two texts of great importance on psychiatric illness—Outlines of Lectures on Mental Diseases (1826), and Cases of Mental Disease, with Practical Observations on the Medical Treatment (1828). But these were but a warm-up for his illustrated volume The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases in 1840.

The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases contained descriptions of the various types of mental illness, case studies of various patients from a selection of England’s psychiatric hospitals, and some possible treatments. At the time, psychiatric care was going through a much-needed overhaul, with patients being treated as suffering from a (possibly) curable disease rather than being written-off as possessed by demons or just too fucked-up to no longer defined as human and dumped in bedlam where they were often exhibited to the amusement of the paying public. Morrison devised (whether by himself or in collaboration is unclear) the idea of illustrating his book on The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases with a series of portrait engravings of the patients whose case studies he was describing. It was a very useful idea.

However, it does suggest that mental illness can always be identified through a patient’s facial expressions—as if there are certain universal physical attributes that define all types of mental illness. Moreover, such drawings were open to possible caricature with artists exaggerating certain facial tics or expressions which may or may not be relevant. Morrison’s approach was valued until the 1850s, when the photograph was deemed to be the more scientific and reliable choice for documenting mental illness by his successor at the Surrey Asylum, the physician and pioneering photographer Hugh Welch Diamond.
 
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Portrait of 20-year-old female mental patient.

 
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More engravings from ‘The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases,’ after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.15.2017
11:51 am
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Take a chilling look inside the Glore Psychiatric Museum


A mannequin peering out of a ‘Lunatic Box’ on display at the Glore Psychiatric Museum in Saint Joseph, Missouri.
 
In 1874 the state of Missouri opened the “State Hospital for the Insane #2” more commonly referred to as the “Lunatic Asylum #2.” The asylum prided itself as the kind of institution that took on the “noble work” of “reviving hope in the human heart and dispelling the portentous clouds that penetrate the intellects of minds diseased.” While this claim does sound noble, the methods that were used to “penetrate” the minds of the patients who found themselves in one of the institution’s 25 beds were often medieval at best. At their worst the treatments administered by the staff were variations of what would be considered torture and were often experimental in nature—usually causing more harm than good.

The asylum would fill all of its available beds. In 1899 the institution changed its name to the far more friendly sounding St. Joseph State Hospital. Five decades later over 3,000 patients had passed through the hospital including dangerous criminals who had long taken leave of their mental faculties. These criminally insane people walked the halls alongside of residents who were struggling with depression. The hospital would continue to operate for 127 years. In 1967 a long-time employee of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, George Glore opened a museum in one of St. Joseph’s many wards. Glore’s on-site museum housed various mental health related artifacts that had been used over the centuries to treat patients with mental health problems, such as the horrific sounding “Lunatic Box” which was routinely used to treat patients that could not be easily controlled and were prone to act out, perhaps violently. The box, which strongly resembled a fucking coffin of all things, would house the patient in complete darkness in a standing position for hours. Patients were not even allowed to leave the box to go to the bathroom, leaving them to do their business in the box until a member of the staff felt that they had reached the appropriate level of zen.

In 1997 what is now known as the Glore Psychiatric Museum moved to a large, three-story building in order to provide enough room for its vast array of oddities. Below you’ll find many images from exhibits on display at the Glore including some haunting artwork done by patients who resided at St. Joseph’s during its century-plus existence. If you’re planning on visiting Saint Joseph, Missouri anytime soon the museum is open Monday to Sunday and kids get in FREE. Yikes.
 

A long shot of the ‘Lunatic Box’ which was used during the 18th and 19th century.
 

A display containing 110,000 cigarette boxes that were collected by a resident of the St. Joseph State Hospital.
 
More from the Glore after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.18.2017
01:28 pm
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The sad and heartbreaking reality of Shelley Duvall’s mental health


 
“Oh, we went to a party, found a girl, and you’ve got to meet her. She is special!” Robert Altman remembered being told after screenwriter Brian McKay and assistant director Tommy Thompson returned from an engagement celebration for a local artist in Houston. They were in the lone star state location scouting for Altman’s upcoming film Brewster McCloud. At the time Shelley Duvall was studying nutrition and diet therapy at South Texas Junior College and working as a cosmetics salesperson at Northwest Mall’s Foley’s department store. Without formal acting experience or training, Altman cast her in the key role of the Houston Astrodome tour guide Suzanne Davis and a star was born. Over the next two decades, she would go on to appear in classic films such as Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Robert Altman’s Nashville and 3 Women, and Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Besides a successful film career she created, hosted, executive produced, (and even wrote the theme music) for the award-winning live-action children’s anthology series Faerie Tale Theatre.
 
In 1993 Shelley sold the rights to Faerie Tale Theatre to a small British entertainment company after she began to struggle financially. As an independent producer, Duvall was finding it increasingly difficult to fund new projects with tight credit and mounting production costs due to the recession. She was forced to lay off over a dozen employees that worked out of her production company, Think Entertainment, whose offices were located on the second floor of a nondescript San Fernando valley strip mall over a Chinese restaurant and a dry cleaner. Shelley retired as a producer but continued taking acting parts. In 1994 her Studio City home was damaged in the Northridge earthquake and she relocated to the small city of Blanco, TX (approximately 50 miles north San Antonio and 50 miles west of Austin) which boasted a population of 1,500 residents.
 
While she remained single without any children, Shelley moved into a modest ranch in Blanco with her collection of exotic birds and reptiles that she had begun acquiring in Los Angeles. “At home, it’s a menagerie: 70 birds, all different kinds, ten dogs, one cat, a leopard tortoise, a rabbit, four iguanas, and two desert lizards,” she said during her interview on the Marilu Henner Show in 1994. Shelley continued to accept acting roles and television appearances throughout the late ‘90s but in the early 2000’s the roles got smaller before dwindling completely. Her 2000 independent film Dreams in the Attic which shot in and around Houston and Galveston was pitched to Disney but never sold or released. Duvall’s final acting performance was in the outsider film Manna from Heaven in 2002.
 
Keep reading after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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11.30.2016
11:00 am
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A sad look inside the suitcases left behind by patients at an insane asylum
10.03.2016
11:26 am
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In 1995, the New York State Office of Mental Health closed the Willard Psychiatric Center in a town called Willard in Seneca County in western New York State. During a process of assessing what items in the building could and could not be salvaged, a Willard employee named Bev Courtwright unlocked an attic door and was confronted with an astonishing sight: 400 suitcases containing the possessions of mental patients from decades earlier, suitcases that had been long forgotten.

Information on the suitcases, the objects within and their former owners is scant. The suitcases cover the period 1910-1960. The people who owned these objects were committed to institutional care many, many decades ago, and many of them never set foot outside the hospital for the rest of their lives—some are buried in a nearby cemetery. It is safe to assume that in many cases the patients brought the suitcases with them with some expectation of future use, but then the Center took them away and stored them—in other words, never to be seen again by their owners.
 

Suitcase of ‘Carrie L.’
 
A while back the New York State Museum in Albany acquired the suitcases and eventually tasked Jon Crispin with documenting and photographing the suitcases and its contents. So many of these suitcases testify to a life interrupted, presenting a stark boundary dividing an exciting or dramatic life, perhaps lived during the Jazz Age or the Depression, and a far less eventful existence lived under medical care. The suitcases show evidence of familial attachments to children, parents, siblings as well as perfectly normal tastes and predilections that anyone you know might share, but these affections and connections ceased to have the same meaning after the inmates were effectively cut off from regular society.

Some of the suitcases had stuff inside, some did not; all present a fundamental mystery as to the former lives of the inmates, and what caused them to be treated at a facility like Willard.

You can see many, many more of Crispin’s pictures of the Willard Suitcases here.
 

‘FJL’
 

‘Anna G.’
 

‘Carlos S.’
 
More devastating pics from these remarkable suitcases after the jump…....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.03.2016
11:26 am
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Murder, Madness and Miss Marple: The Secret Life of Dame Margaret Rutherford

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Sunday afternoon matinees on television first introduced me to the utter delight of watching Margaret Rutherford’s acting on screen. Her appearance as the much loved Miss Marple in a series of 1960s whodunnits loosely based on the novels by Agatha Christie left such an indelible impression that for all of those great actresses who have since played the inquisitive spinster from St. Mary Mead not one has eclipsed her unforgettable performance.

There was always something special about Margaret Rutherford. No matter what she did, she was always likeable. Over a thirty-year career on stage and screen she consistently delivered performances of quality and distinction, of grace and beauty, of comedy and excellence that made her sparkle in even the most second rate production.

Nowadays she is best remembered for her scene-stealing turn as Madame Arcati in David Lean’s movie adaptation of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit in 1945. Or her fighting the battle of the sexes as headmistress of a girls school in The Happiest Days of Your Life from 1950. Or her 1963 Oscar-winning role as the Duchess of Brighton in the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor movie The V.I.P.s.

As the actor Robert Morley once said, Margaret Rutherford was “everyone’s Maiden Aunt—a woman of enormous integrity who acted naturally…and was always frightfully funny.” Yet behind all this talent to amuse was a terrible secret worthy of a Miss Marple mystery—a story of madness, suicide and murder that haunted the great actress throughout her life.

To unlock this family secret we have to go back to the decade before Margaret Rutherford’s birth—to the marriage of her parents William Rutherford Benn and Florence Nicholson at All Saints Church, Wandsworth in December of 1882.

William was the son of the Reverend Julius Benn, an eminent social reformer and church figure and the grandfather of politician Tony Benn. Florence was of similar middle class stock but her parents were dead and one sister had committed suicide a few years before—which was an intimation of things to come.

Not long after their honeymoon, William had a serious psychotic breakdown. It has been suggested this was caused by his failure to consummate the marriage. Exactly a month after their wedding, William was admitted to Bethnal House Lunatic Asylum, where he was described as suffering from:

...depression alternating with unusual excitement and irritability.

William was detained at the asylum for several weeks until his condition improved. On release, his parents decided it best that William should not return immediately to Florence but instead take “a rest cure in the country.” William’s father the Rev. Julius decided to take his son to the spa town of Matlock in Derbyshire.

On February 27th, 1883, the two men checked into their room at a boarding house run by a Mrs Marchant in Chesterfield Road. Father and son appeared “on the most affectionate of terms” and were “very attached to each other.” They were described as “abstemious” and were seen taking long walks to various local sites.

But on Sunday March 4th something terrible happened.
 
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The first indications of there being wrong was the strange ghastly noises coming from their room. When neither men appeared for breakfast:

Mrs Marchant, accompanied by her husband, entered the Benns’ room to find William Benn, his night shirt covered in blood, pointing to his father, who lay on the bed quite dead.

William had killed his father with a single blow to the head with an earthenware chamber pot. William had then attempted suicide by cutting his own throat. He stood in the room making feral noises blood bubbling from the gash in his throat.

This self-inflicted was not fatal. William was arrested and treated at the local infirmary. A few days later he attempted suicide again this time by jumping out of a second story window. He suffered injuries to his back and cuts to his body but was not seriously hurt. He was recaptured and held at the hospital.

At the inquest, the jury unanimously decided William had “wilfully murdered” his father. He was committed to the mercy of the Derbyshire Assizes for sentencing. William’s condition deteriorated drastically. He was declared “insane” and admitted to Broadmoor hospital. All charges against him were dropped on grounds of insanity.

What caused this tragic psychotic episode is unknown. William was treated at Broadmoor for seven years, after which he was released into the care of his wife Florence.

In a bid to escape the association with his murderous past, William changed his name from Benn to Rutherford by deed poll. This time the marriage was consummated and Margaret Taylor Rutherford was born on May 11th, 1892.
 
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William moved his family to India, where he worked as a merchant or “shipping clerk” and sometime journalist. Little is known of what happened during these years other than the suggestion (from Tony Benn) that William was deeply moved by the poverty he encountered and dedicated his time to helping those in direst need.

During their time together in India, Florence became pregnant. At some point during her pregnancy, Florence fell into a deep depression and exhibited signs of severe mental illness. Aware of his wife’s deteriorating condition, William made plans to move back to England. It came too late. Florence committed suicide. Her body was discovered one morning hanging from a tree in the garden.

In 1895, William and Margaret returned to England. He handed his daughter over to his wife’s remaining sister Bessie to raise. William then suffered a series of severe mental breakdowns that led to his incarceration at the Northumberland House Asylum, Finsbury Park, London in 1903.

Bessie took full charge of raising her niece. She told Margaret her parents were dead. All went well until one day a tramp approached Margaret as she played in the garden. This disheveled man told the young girl her father was very much alive and sent her his love. Margaret was terrified by the man and deeply troubled by what he had said.

She asked her aunt about her father. Bessie eventually told the truth. Margaret was devastated. She became depressed, withdrawn and non-communicative. Rutherford was terrified that she had inherited her parents’ insanity. She suffered the first of many mental breakdowns that she endured throughout her life, in later years going as far as undertaking electric shock therapy as a hopeful cure for her depression.

Margaret Rutherford never spoke publicly of her family’s history. In her autobiography, she made no reference to her father’s illness instead describing him as a:

...complicated romantic who changed his name to Rutherford as it was more aesthetic for a writer. My father died in tragic circumstances soon after my mother and so I became an orphan.

William had in fact been re-admitted to Broadmoor where he was incarcerated until his death in 1921. It is not known whether Margaret ever visited her father. However, he did write many letters to his daughter that caused her family considerable concern.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.04.2016
01:42 pm
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Portraits of inmates from a ‘Lunatic Asylum,’ 1869

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In 1796, Quaker businessman and philanthropist William Tuke opened the Retreat in York, England, for the care of the mentally ill. Prior to this, those with mental health or behavioral issues were treated worse than the most heinous criminal—they were usually locked-up in bedlams, imprisoned in cells or chained to walls in workhouses. As a Quaker Tuke believed in the sanctity of life and of behaving kindly and morally to all humanity. This led him to build a hospital for the care of those suffering from mental health problems. At first, the Retreat was only open to fellow Quakers, but it soon opened its doors to all.

The Retreat changed the way mental health was treated in England, and in 1818 the first of four hospitals, the Stanley Royd Hospital in Wakefield, was built under the aegis of the West Riding General Asylums Committee. A further three hospitals were built between 1872 and 1904—the South Yorkshire Asylum built in Sheffield, the High Royds Hospital in Menston and the Storthes Hall built in Kirkburton—which became villages for patients and all four hospital together formed the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum.

Inspired by the Retreat, the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum pioneered the care and treatment of the mentally ill during the Victorian and Edwardian era. Gone were days of brutality and fear. Patients were cared for as best as was then able and according to the available medical advice. It may seem strange and harsh to us today—especially the use of confinement cells to hold some violent, paranoid and delusional patients—but in relative terms, our treatment of the mentally ill will no doubt be seen as harsh by future generations.

These hospitals were open to all who needed treatment, and by the late 1800s, the demand for support from the impoverished and mentally ill outstripped the number of places available, leading to more hospitals built. By the turn of the 1900s, with the rise of psychiatry and the “tendency to herding and regimentation” asylums “lost much of their early high ideal of individual concern and care.” Standards basically fell, as the patients greatly outnumbered staff, leading to inadequate care, which didn’t change until later in the 20th century and the beginning of the National Health Service.

This selection of portraits show patients of varying ages from the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum in 1869. Some of the pictures detail the patient’s illness—“organic dementia,” “general paralysis of the insane,” “imbecility,” “simple mania,” “consecutive dementia,” “mono-mania of pride,” “mania of suspicion,” “chronic mania,” “mono-mania of pride,” “acute melancholia” and “senile dementia”—but each photograph tells its own sad tale.
 
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More inmate portraits, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.17.2015
11:46 am
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Kristin Hersh hates music


 
In a very revealing interview published in the Guardian this week, ex-Throwing Muses singer and solo artist Kristin Hersh admits that she hates music and the role it has played in her life:

“Yeah, I hate music. Everyone knows that about me. Even my kids hate music. When they’re watching a kids’ show on TV, as soon as a song comes on, the TV is muted.” She reconsiders. “Maybe hate is the wrong word. We can’t bear it. The intensity of good music is too much to bear. And bad music is so offensive that that’s also too much to bear. I’m in heaven when it’s good, but that doesn’t happen very often. And anyway, you don’t want to be crying over the breakfast table. I don’t want that life.”

She is wary of the romantic notion of a link between great art and mental illness. Maybe, she concedes, in certain circumstances. But in the end the sums don’t add up. “The disease is far more dangerous than the music is valuable.”

She mentions her friend, the US singer Vic Chesnutt, who sang songs of love and loss and who died from an overdose two Christmases ago. “The fact that it killed Vic, it’s not worth it for me,” she says. “I think he’d have been a better man without music. And, even if not, he’d be here. He was more precious to me than he was to himself. And I know that I play that role for people too. My husband has begged me to stop. I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. Vic didn’t even want to. I want to.”

Hersh was at the Edinburgh book festival to promote her memoir Rat Girl - you can read the whole interview here.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Kristin Hersh: Rat Girl

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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08.25.2011
07:06 am
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