You pick up any book or movie that deals with a historical premise and one or more characters with a psychological disorder. You will find out how poorly mental disorders were treated, if you can call that treatment! Most of these cases were viewed as examples of demonic forces taking control of the body. Such human beings were not considered as humans anymore; they were like the bearers of evil qualities. As a result of this conception, they were treated very cruelly and in a barbaric manner.
One of the most common psychiatric therapies considered in the past was that of exorcism. This was a religious activity carried out by priests, usually in churches or chapels. The idea was to get rid of the ghost or demon that has taken control of the body. The next common method was that of trephining. This was the method of drilling a little hole in the skull of the person with psychological disorder to make way for the evil forces to get out of the system. As obvious, these acts of ‘therapy’ were done by hacks and in most cases, the patients died a horrible death.
By the end of the 18th century, most of these methods were replaced by confining the individual to a separate, isolated chamber, commonly known as asylums. The idea was to keep them away from other human beings as their behaviour was not consistent or stable. Asylums were the hotbeds of ill-treatment of mentally unsound people. They were chained up and made to live in terrible conditions, with nothing done to salvage their mental health. Instead, due to living in such deplorable conditions, their condition worsened with time.
The earliest psychological counselling probably came from Philippe Pinel, a French physician, late in the 1700s. He was the first known proponent of treating mentally ill patients with care and humanity. At the La Salpetriere, Paris, 1795, he unchained his patients and started treating them on the line of modern psychiatric treatment. Under this reformed line of treatment, patients began to recover their mental faculties and many of them returned home to normal life.
Despite these positives, it was only in the 1960s that antipsychotic drugs were introduced for mental patients. These gave results and mental institutions began to use them for psychological disorder like delusions and hallucinations. Under the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act in USA, large asylums began to close down and treatment became more of one-on-one sessions, like we have in the modern days.
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