December Issue of History of Psychiatry: Malaria Therapy, Not Listening to Patients, and More

AHP readers may be interested in the December 2022 issue of History of Psychology. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Malaria therapy for general paralysis of the insane at the Sunbury Hospital for the Insane in Australia, 1925–6,” Alison Clayton. Abstract:

This paper, drawing on the published medical literature and unpublished medical record archives, provides an in-depth account of the introduction of malaria therapy for general paralysis of the insane into Australia in 1925–6, at Victoria’s Sunbury Hospital for the Insane. This study reveals a complex and ambiguous picture of the practice and therapeutic impact of malaria therapy in this local setting. This research highlights a number of factors which may have contributed to some physicians overestimating malaria therapy’s effectiveness. It also shows that other physicians of the era held a more sceptical attitude towards malaria therapy. Finally, this paper discusses the relevance of this history to contemporary psychiatry.

“‘I have to-day seen all the 671 patients in residence in this institution’: not listening to patients in the long 1920s,” Claire Hilton. Abstract:

In the 1920s, patients and former patients produced oral and written accounts of their mental hospital experiences. Many aimed to inform the public about the institutions and to improve standards of care, but their views were usually ignored. The assumption that mental disorders affected all aspects of a person’s judgement, plus defensive and disparaging attitudes of hospital authorities and formal committees of inquiry, contributed to this. Various other public agendas, financial crises and rising unemployment detracted from the needs of mentally unwell people. Small improvements in care materialized, but lay, professional and institutional cultures generally preserved the status quo. Regarding learning from patients’ feedback, some hurdles encountered in the 1920s resonate with challenges in today’s National Health Service.

“Professional dynamics of the forensic evaluation of mental states in eighteenth-century Denmark-Norway,” Nanna Eva Nissen. Abstract:

This study examines criminal cases related to blasphemy under the absolute monarchy of Denmark-Norway, and presents the evaluation of mental states within a forensic context between 1713 and 1733. First, the article explains how the legal framework and normative guidelines for pastoral care envisaged the interplay between judges, priests and doctors in evaluating mental states. Then, an examination of selected cases is provided, showing the dynamics and the role assignment in the evaluation of mental states in practice. Covering a period characterized by a gradual differentiation of theology, law and medicine, this case study enhances understanding of what preceded the development of psychiatry as a medical speciality during the nineteenth century.

“Institutionalization of the insane in the Russian Baltic provinces: a case study of the Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases in Tartu, 1881–95,” Anu Rae. Abstract:

This article studies the University of Tartu psychiatric hospital and its patient population in the Russian Baltic Province of Livonia in 1881–95, using the hospital’s admission registry book as the primary source. Although it was a university clinic following the German academic tradition, both upper- and lower-class patients were admitted (25 and 75 per cent, respectively, of 2,184 hospitalizations), with a median stay of 70 days. Admission and length of stay often depended on a family’s or community’s financial capabilities. Considerably more men and unmarried patients were admitted, and 130 hospitalized women were diagnosed with female-specific illnesses. This study argues that gender and social class should be jointly analysed, as admission and discharge outcomes are influenced by both factors simultaneously.

“Psychiatric treatment of female mental patients in the Federated Malay States (FMS) of British-Malaya, 1930–57,” Haszira Muhamad Yusof and Azlizan Mat Enh. Abstract:

The British government in Malaya conducted treatment for women suffering mental illness in an effort to deal with the increasing number of cases in the Federated Malay States in 1930–57. This paper explores the role of mental asylums and society in contributing to methods of treatment during the twentieth century.

“Animal magnetism in Italy during the nineteenth century: the conflicting relationship with the Catholic Church,” Roberto Mazzagatti, Michael Belingheri, Maria Emilia Paladino, Nicolò Dell’Orto, and Michele Augusto Riva. Abstract:

This article explores the relationship between the Catholic Church and animal magnetism. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Catholic Church had first tried to stem the rise of animal magnetism in a vague manner, but after a few decades, it eventually put a genuine veto in place. This measure was founded upon the dangers to morality and faith arising from the progressive polarization of the original doctrine in forms related to esotericism. Among the causes of the condemnation by the Congregation of the Holy Office, the primary ones were the naturalist interpretation of the miracles described in the Gospels and in the New Testament, and the possibility of falling under the control of a demonic spirit.

“Melancholia in late life in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia, 1871–1905: symptoms, behaviours and outcomes,” Brian Draper. Abstract:

In the late nineteenth century, the prognosis of late-life melancholia was believed to be poor. The medical casebooks of 40 patients aged 60+years, admitted to two Hospitals for the Insane in New South Wales with melancholia between 1871 and 1905, were examined. Psychosis (87.5%), depressed mood (80%), suicidal behaviour (55%), physical ill health (55%), restlessness (50%) and fears of harm to self (50%) were identified. Main outcomes were discharge (40%) and death (37.5%). Victoria’s Kew Hospital patient register for 1872–88 revealed 669 melancholia admissions with 30 aged 60+. Outcomes worsened significantly with age (chi square = 16.19, df = 4, p < 0.005), mainly due to higher mortality. Nineteenth-century late-life melancholia was a severe disorder despite many cases recovering.

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.