New SHM: American Child Psychiatry, Opiates in Japan, Intellectually Disabled in Ireland, and More

Several new articles in the August 2021 issue of Social History of Medicine may interest AHP readers. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

Stella Chess and the History of American Child Psychiatry,” Laura D. Hirshbein. Abstract:

Throughout its history, American child psychiatry has been a hospitable specialty for women physicians. In its early years when practitioners were often steeped in psychoanalysis and influenced by theorists such as Anna Freud, many leaders within the field were women. By the 1960s and 1970s, child psychiatry was moving away from analysis and towards more research-based practice. The biography of an important leader in this area, New York University’s Stella Chess, illustrates the mechanism of that transformation and the role of ideas about mothers and working women. Chess, along with her husband and collaborator Alexander Thomas, gathered data to disprove the popular notion that mothers were to blame for children’s behaviour problems and demonstrated instead that issues resulted from a poor fit between a child’s temperament and his/her environment. Chess not only demanded that facts support theory, but also used her own parenting experiences and common sense to guide her work.

A ‘forgettable minority’? Psychiatric Institutions and the Intellectually Disabled in Ireland, 1965–84,” David Kilgannon. Open Access. Abstract:

This article investigates the admission of the intellectually disabled to institutional psychiatric facilities in the Republic of Ireland between 1965 and 1984, using this as a way to explore disability provision and the later years of the state’s congregate mental hospital network. Drawing on institutional documents and news media, it argues that ‘handicap admissions’ continued along an established pattern, while demonstrating how these facilities remained ill-equipped to meet the needs of disabled residents. In doing so, this article begins to address the broader lacuna surrounding intellectual disability within Irish historiography, while complicating an emergent body of work on the ‘deinstitutionalisation’ of the state’s psychiatric hospitals during the late twentieth century. It suggests ways in which institutional records can be used to access patient experiences and highlights the need for further research on intellectual disability, examinations of which can contribute towards the histories of institutionalisation and social policy in post-war Ireland.

Professional Migration, Occupational Challenge, and Mental Health: Medical Practitioners in New Zealand, 1850–1890s,” Alannah Tomkins, Catharine Coleborne. Abstract:

Australasian colonies were promoted as ‘lands of opportunity’ for British medical practitioners of the Victorian period, but once there doctors often found that any problems they faced had travelled with them. Furthermore, the act of migration could add to personal difficulty. This article builds on existing work about the challenges confronting doctors in England, and on the potential of asylum records to address the consequences of migration, to consider the experiences of men who chose to move round the globe. It concerns practitioners’ turbulent careers in New Zealand, with an emphasis on their poor mental health and suicide. Official and personal sources are used to evaluate the impact of professional drivers, and the consequences for medical men. It concludes that migration did not mitigate professional stresses and instead induced or exacerbated personal crisis. The visibility of alcohol-related distress is particularly marked in contrast to evidence for practitioners in England.

Opiates and the ‘Therapeutic Revolution’ in Japan,” Judith Vitale. Abstract:

This article argues that the widespread use of opiate-compounded medicines in late-nineteenth-century Japan was partly a result of Meiji period (1868–1912) public health policies. An overview of the status of opiates in Japan from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries is intended to explain possible reasons: pharmaceutical reforms in the 1870s and 1880s were based on Edo-period (1603–1868) protostructures of regulated drug manufacture; in contrast, the Meiji government failed to introduce Western clinical practice within a short span of time. As a result opiates, marketed as Western ‘modern’ medicines, were smoothly integrated into pre-existing beliefs, according to which drugs and diets maintained bodily health.

Adaptation to the New Normal—Maternal Employment in the Framework of Psychosomatic and Stress Discourse in Finland from the 1950s to the Early 1970s,” Mikko Myllykangas, Eve-Riina Hyrkäs. Abstract:

This article examines how the psychosomatic approach, a holistic orientation towards health and illness, and the concept of ‘stress’ were employed in the Finnish socio-medical discussion on maternal employment during the post-war decades. The concepts of psychosomatics and stress voiced the contemporary anxieties about a changing way of life, and as the psychosocial environment was connected to morbidity, maternal employment could be seen as a medical problem. The changing value climate of the late 1960s elicited an emerging discrepancy between interpretations of medical theories and ‘modern values’, articulated in maternal employment and day care discussions. ‘Psychosomatics’ and ‘stress’ could be used as tools for victim-blaming, but also to call for changes in social conditions. The article contributes to the historical scholarship on social change by suggesting how the interaction between individual behaviour and the planning of social policies can be analysed.

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.

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