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Mental Illness In The 1930s

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by Miranda Buchanan on 6 February 2013

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Transcript of Mental Illness In The 1930s

Mental Illness In The 1930s Treatment Electro-Convulsive Therapy Insulin-Induced Comas Interesting Facts Overall, treatment for mental illness in the 1930's was very poor. The doctors didn't have much of an idea of what caused mental illnesses until many years later, and there still isn't one accepted cure know today. Patients were "cured" in extremely inhumane ways throughout the decade. The asylums were short-staffed, and the patients were often left alone for hours at a time. The most influential treatment created in the 1930s was the lobotomy. Hydrotherapy Baths Hydrotherapy was definitely one of the more humane treatments used in the 1930s. One of the main benefits of hydrotherapy was that you could see results very quickly. Hydrotherapy could be accomplished with baths, packs, or sprays. Warm baths were used to treat patients suffering from insomnia, suicidal thoughts, those who were dangerous, and generally to calm agitated patients. Bath temperatures typically ranged from 92°F to 97°F. Cold water was used to treat patients diagnosed with manic-depressive psychoses, and patients who seemed excited or more active than usual. Cold water slows down blood flow to the brain, which would make such patients tired or sleepy. The temperature for a cold pack ranged between 48°F and 70°F. A bath could be expected to last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Convulsive Therapy Convulsive therapy involves invoking many seizures or convulsions in a patient. This process was discovered in 1934 by Ladislaus Joseph von Meduna in Budapest. In 1935, Schizophrenia was treated with convulsive therapy, which was first induced by injecting camphor (a terpenoid drug commonly used in Vicks VaporRub). While all of this seems horrible enough, it escalated only a few years later into something much worse... The Lobotomy The Lobotomy is a surgery that consists of removing parts of the brain. In the 1930's, it was commonly performed to treat schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and obsessions. Originally, it was tested on two apes. Doctors John Fulton and Carlyle Jacobson tested the apes' intelligence before and after the procedure. The apes seemed to be able to perform the same tasks as before. They showed their results to Walter J. Freeman, a fellow doctor, who then "perfected" the procedure. The lobotomy was considered to be an easy, fast, permanent fix to most mental illnesses. In 1937, Electro-convulsive therapy was discovered by Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini in Rome. ECT is a procedure in which electric currents are passed through the brain, causing a patient to have a brief seizure. In the 1930s, treatment was delivered without anesthesia, which lead to memory loss, fractured bones and other serious side effects. It was commonly used to treat depression. An Insulin-Induced Coma (or Insulin Shock Therapy) was typically used to induce shock in the form of a hypoglycemic coma. Insulin shock therapy relies on the use of insulin, a metabolic hormone. German psychiatrist Dr. Manfred Sakel is given credit for "perfecting" this treatment, which he first used to treat drug withdrawal in patients addicted to opiates. Dr. Sakel began experimenting with insulin shock therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia in the early 1930s. One of the many lobotomies performed by Dr. Freeman was on John F. Kennedy's sister, Rosemary. She was 23, and after the procedure was basically left with the capabilities of a child. Her sister Eunice founded the Special Olympics in her honor.
Hospitals in the United States were becoming overcrowded, and the number of patients was growing by 80% per year.
Funding for the mental hospitals was depleting because of the Great Depression.
The asylums were usually understaffed and patients were left alone for days at a time.
Veterans and homeless people would sometimes stay in the asylums until they got back on their feet, using the resources that were meant for the those declared insane. Here is a brief look at various treatments that were given to patients of mental institutions in the 1930s.
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