Radical Reforms

“Do  not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a  trail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

In America, the 1840’s was a period marked by seismic shifts.  Waves of political and social reforms of many kinds were sweeping like wildfire across the landscape.  Among these reforms was the idea that there should be reform in the ways in which the public cares for those who are mentally deficient or diseased.  The most radical idea being that they should be treated, as opposed to just put into another version of a prison.  Discipline would no longer be defined as a form of physical abuse, but rather  a more regimented organized exercise.  Of course, everything new or newly defined, or reorganized, has to establish itself and create its own credentials.  And that takes time.  What Thomas S. Kirkbride and other did was to help charter a new course for an already growing field, still relatively quite new.  However, despite the best of their intentions, it would take decades before they could determine how to effectively help people.  What is interesting to note is the fact that while patients were placed in a structured environment for their own welfare, they were still allowed to be on display for other peoples own twisted and depraved amusement.  This speaks to how American’s ideas about mental health how evolved.  And yet there remains a stigma that has never really gone away.  To help sort of shed some light into the nature of how the approach to the study of mental health has evolved the following link  http://www.jstor.org/stable/20091563 should provide some interesting insights.

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