New Issue History of Psychiatry: Schizophrenia Symptoms, British Colonial Asylums, & More

Hans W. Gruhle

The June 2015 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. The issue includes articles on the symptoms of schizophrenia, British colonial lunatic asylums, and “senile dementia” in the decades before 1979. Also in the issue is a classic text on symptoms in psychiatry by Hans W. Gruhle (right). Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“First rank symptoms of schizophrenia: their nature and origin,” by J. Cutting. The abstract reads,

Kurt Schneider’s insight nearly 80 years ago that schizophrenia could be demarcated from other psychoses by a small set of particular delusions and hallucinations powerfully influenced diagnostic practice. The theoretical status of such ‘first rank symptoms’ as a whole, however, has rarely been addressed. But if they are sensitive and specific to the condition, it is about time that their essential nature and potential origin be considered. This is the purpose of the present paper. I argue that these psychopathological phenomena are indeed relatively sensitive and specific to the condition, that their nature can be formulated within a Schelerian model of what constitutes a human being, and that their origin fits anthropological and neuropsychological notions of the make-up of contemporary human beings.

“‘At variance with the most elementary principles’: the state of British colonial lunatic asylums in 1863,” by Warwick Brunton. The abstract reads,

In 1863 the Colonial Office reviewed colonial hospitals and lunatic asylums in those parts of the British Empire it administered – probably the first and widest international comparative study up to that date. This article outlines the background, process and scope of the review of asylums, and considers its significance. The resulting ‘digest’ is an important source to explain how, why, when and by whom metropolitan ideas acquired official endorsement and spread throughout the British world. Using the review’s general findings and suggestions, a tool is provided for comparing inter-colonial achievements. With New Zealand as a case study, the article concludes that, relative to other influences, the digest played a limited and largely indirect part in shaping New Zealand’s mental health policy before 1876.

“World citizenship and the emergence of the social psychiatry project of the World Health Organization, 1948–c.1965,” by Harry Yi-Jui Wu. The abstract reads,

This paper examines the relationship between ‘world citizenship’ and the new psychiatric research paradigm established by the World Health Organization in the early post-World War II period. Endorsing the humanitarian ideological concept of ‘world citizenship’, health professionals called for global rehabilitation initiatives to address the devastation after the war. The charm of world citizenship had not only provided theoretical grounds of international collaborative research into the psychopathology of psychiatric diseases, but also gave birth to the international psychiatric epidemiologic studies conducted by the World Health Organization. Themes explored in this paper include the global awareness of mental rehabilitation, the application of public health methods in psychiatry to improve mental health globally, the attempt by the WHO to conduct large-scale, cross-cultural studies relevant to mental health and the initial problems it faced.

“Psychiatrists, mental health provision and ‘senile dementia’ in England, 1940s–1979,” by Claire Hilton. The abstract reads,

Until around 1979, ‘confused’ or mentally unwell people over 65 years of age tended to be labelled as having ‘senile dementia’. Senile dementia was usually regarded as a single, inevitably hopeless condition, despite gradually accumulating clinical and pathological evidence to the contrary. Specific psychiatric services for mental illness in older people began to emerge in the 1950s, but by 1969 there were fewer than 10 dedicated services nationally. During the 1970s, ‘old age psychiatrists’ established local services and campaigned nationally for them. By 1979, about 100 old age psychiatrists were leading multi-disciplinary teams in half the health districts in England. This paper explores the tortuous development of these new services, focusing on provision for people with dementia.

“Herculano Sá de Figueiredo (1911–74): a sculptor in the Conde de Ferreira Hospital, Portugal,” by Adrián Gramary, Cláudia Lopes, and João Pedro Ribeiro. The abstract reads,

Herculano Sá de Figueiredo’s sculptures remained anonymous inside the Conde de Ferreira Hospital of Oporto (Portugal) for over 30 years. The accidental discovery of the patient’s clinical file enabled the authors of this paper to establish the link between the man, his work and his psychiatric pathology. The artwork kept in the hospital was not previously known in academic and artistic circles. Studying and recovering Figueiredo’s work is important because a considerable part of his oeuvre was produced from 1955 to 1973, when he was a patient in the Conde de Ferreira Hospital. The models represented in his sculptures were technicians and patients at the institution.

Classic Text No. 102: “‘The meaning of the symptom in psychiatry. An overview’, by Hans W. Gruhle (1913),” by Johan Schioldann and German Berrios. The abstract reads,

At the beginning of the 20th century there took place in German Psychiatry an important debate on the nature and relative importance of mental symptoms and diseases. Young psychiatrists such as Störring, Ziehen, Gaupp, Hoche, Jaspers and Gruhle challenged, from various perspectives, the nosology of established figures such as Kraepelin and Wernicke. The Classic Text is a commented translation of Gruhle’s 1913 lecture on the meaning of mental symptoms. After concluding that mental symptoms should be used as the epistemological unit of analysis in psychiatry, Gruhle rued the fact that little was yet known about their inner structure. He believed that any account of the latter should include an account of the ‘meaning’ of mental symptoms, that is, of their role in the patient’s total disease. Gruhle found Freud’s account of meaning wanting, but was himself unable to offer a viable alternative. Be that as it may, his concern remains unanswered and is as relevant today as it was in 1913.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.