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Insane Asylum: 20th Century

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20th Century

Physical Therapies

In modern times, insulin shock therapy and lobotomies are viewed as being almost as barbaric as the Bedlam "treatments", although the insulin shock therapy was still seen as the only option which produced any noticeable effect on patients. ECT is still used in the West, but it is seen as a last resort for treatment of mood disorders, and is administered much more safely than in the past. Elsewhere, particularly in India, use of ECT is reportedly increasing, as a cost-effective alternative to drug treatment. The effect of a shock on an overly excitable patient often allowed these patients to be discharged to their homes, which was seen by administrators and often guardians as a preferable solution to institutionalization. Lobotomies were performed in the hundreds from the 1930s to the 1950s, and were ultimately replaced with modern psychotropic drugs.

Eugenics Movement

Psychiatric Internment As A Political Device

Psychiatrists around the world have been involved in the suppression of individual rights by states wherein the definitions of mental disease had been expanded to include political disobedience. Nowadays, in many countries, political prisoners are sometimes confined to mental institutions and abused therein. Psychiatry possesses a built-in capacity for abuse which is greater than in other areas of medicine. The diagnosis of mental disease can serve as proxy for the designation of social dissidents, allowing the state to hold persons against their will and to insist upon therapies that work in favour of ideological conformity and in the broader interests of society.


United States: Reform in the 1940s


The first community-based alternatives were suggested and tentatively implemented in the 1920s and 1930s, although asylum numbers continued to increase up to the 1950s. The movement for deinstitutionalization came to the fore in various Western countries in the 1950s and 1960s.

The prevailing public arguments, time of onset, and pace of reforms varied by country.

There were differing views on deinstitutionalization, however, in groups such as mental health professionals, public officials, families, advocacy groups, public citizens, and unions.

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