The New York Times‘s Retro Report has produced a new video on the history of lobotomy, First, Do No Harm. As Retro Report describes,
For centuries scientists have studied the brain and still our understanding, particularly when it comes to the treatment for those suffering with severe, often untreatable mental illness, remains elusive. As scientists around the world are beginning ambitious programs to study the human brain in unprecedented ways, Retro Report explores the evolution of the surgical and biological treatments over the decades. From the brutal, but once considered mainstream treatment of lobotomy to biological cocktails, to the beginnings of what many hope will be a more elegant understanding of the brain through technology.
The February 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore the work of O. Hobart Mowrer, Howard W. Odum, and Timothée Puel, respectively, Karl Menninger’s The Crime of Punishment, and the changing relationship between psychology and philosophy through a digital analysis of journal content. In the news and notes section Chetan Sinha discusses the indigenization of psychology in India. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Preserving guilt in the “age of psychology”: The curious career of O. Hobart Mowrer,” by Corbin Page. The abstract reads,
O. Hobart Mowrer had one of the most productive and curious careers of any psychologist in the 20th century, despite struggling with severe mental illness and anxiety about his sexuality. Early in his career, he was one of the country’s leading experimental psychologists. During the mid-1940s, he became interested in religion and argued that anxiety was caused by repressed guilt that came from real wrongdoing. By the late 1950s, he had abandoned mainstream psychology, arguing that religion had been corrupted by its embrace of psychology and psychiatry. He claimed that sin was responsible for nearly all psychological problems and that ethical living and confession of wrongdoing could prevent mental illness. During his religious period, Mowrer received an astonishing amount of fawning press attention and was embraced by a public desirous of a path to mental health that did not require jettisoning traditional conceptions of sin, guilt, and human nature. This article examines Mowrer’s life and career and situates him among other mid-century skeptics of psychology and psychiatry. Other historians have argued that by the 1950s, the conflict between religion and psychiatry/psychology in the United States had largely abated, with both sides adapting to each other. Mowrer’s life and the reception of his work demonstrate that this narrative is overly simplistic; widespread conservative and religious distrust of psychology persisted even into the 1960s.
The 2016 edition of Osiris, the annual thematic journal of the History of Science Society, is now available. This year’s volume explores the “History of Science and the Emotions.” A number of articles may be of interest to AHP readers, including pieces on mother love and mental illness, panic disorder and psychopharmacological, and Emil Kraepelin’s work on affective disorders. The full titles, authors, and abstracts are provided below.
“An Introduction to History of Science and the Emotions,” by Otniel E. Dror, Bettina Hitzer, Anja Laukötter, Pilar León-Sanz. The abstract reads,
This essay introduces our call for an intertwined history-of-emotions/history-of-science perspective. We argue that the history of science can greatly extend the history of emotions by proffering science qua science as a new resource for the study of emotions. We present and read science, in its multiple diversities and locations, and in its variegated activities, products, theories, and emotions, as constitutive of the norms, experiences, expressions, and regimes of emotions. Reciprocally, we call for a new reading of science in terms of emotions as an analytical category. Assuming emotions are intelligible and culturally learned, we extend the notion of emotion to include a nonintentional and noncausal “emotional style,” which is inscribed into (and can reciprocally be generated by) technologies, disease entities, laboratory models, and scientific texts. Ultimately, we argue that emotional styles interrelate with broader emotional cultures and thus can contribute to and/or challenge grand historical narratives.
Follow the rise and fall of the mental asylum and explore how it has shaped the complex landscape of mental health today. Reimagine the institution, informed by the experiences of the patients, doctors, artists and reformers who inhabited the asylum or created alternatives to it.
Today asylums have largely been consigned to history but mental illness is more prevalent than ever, as our culture teems with therapeutic possibilities: from prescription medications and clinical treatment to complementary medicines, online support, and spiritual and creative practices. Against this background, the exhibition interrogates the original ideal that the asylum represented – a place of refuge, sanctuary and care – and asks whether and how it could be reclaimed.
Taking Bethlem Royal Hospital as a starting point, ‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ juxtaposes historical material and medical records with individual testimonies and works by artists such as David Beales, Richard Dadd, Dora García, Eva Kotátková, Madlove: A Designer Asylum, Shana Moulton, Erica Scourti, Javier Téllez and Adolf Wölfli, whose works reflect or reimagine the institution, as both a physical and a virtual space.
UCL/British Psychological Society History of the Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series
Professor Hilary Marland (University of Warwick)
“Disordered in morals and mind: prisoners and mental illness late nineteenth-century England”
From the early nineteenth century to the current day reformers, policy makers, prison governors and medical officers have grappled with relentlessly high levels of mental illness in prisons. Since the creation of ‘modern’ and specialised prisons and prison regimes, prison regimes and conditions – the separate system, solitary confinement and overcrowding – were criticised for their impact on the mental wellbeing of their inmates. This paper explores the management of mentally ill prisoners in the late nineteenth century, paying particular attention to Liverpool Borough Prison. Managing mentally ill prisoners – male and female – became a significant part of the prison surgeons’ workload and a drain on the prison’s resources. Drawing on underexploited prison archives, official papers, medical literature, and asylum casebooks, this paper examines the efforts of prison officers to cope with mental illness among prison populations, and how these drew on, reflected and reinforced late nineteenth-century preoccupations with the criminal mind.
Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.
Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.
From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foster court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.
TheAtlantic has posted an interview with historian William V. Harris, of Columbia University, on mental illness in the Ancient world. Harris is also the author of the edited volume, Mental Disorders in the Classical World. In the Atlantic interview Harris – a specialist on the Ancient Greek and Roman worlds more generally – emphasizes changing conceptions of mental illness over time, as well as early efforts to medicalized mental illness. As he notes,
Many people in antiquity thought that mental disorders came from the gods. The Greek gods are a touchy lot, quick to take offense. For instance, they took a hard line with Orestes after his matricide. [Ed. Note: After killing his mother, Orestes was tormented by the Furies.] And in a world where many important phenomena such as mental illness were not readily explicable, the whims of the gods were the fallback explanation.
Physicians and others fought against this idea from an early date (the 5th century B.C.), giving physiological explanations instead. Many people sought magical/religious remedies—such as going to spend the night in a temple of the healing god Asclepius, in the hope that he would work a cure or tell you how to get cured—[while physicians sought] mainly medical ones. No one thought that it was the duty of the state to care for the insane. Either their families looked after them, or they ended up on the street—a nightmare situation.
BBC Radio 4 has just aired an episode on the history of mental illness. The episode, Mad Houses, explores three museums of madness in Europe in anticipation of the establishment of a museum of mental illness at Bedlam Hospital in the coming years.
As described on Radio 4’s website,
Ken Arnold explores how three European countries variously tell the history of mental illness. What do museums of madness tell us about who we were and who we are? Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes at the Wellcome Trust, visits three of Europe’s old ‘mad houses’ that are now museums in Aarhus in Denmark, Haarlem in the Netherlands and Ghent in Belgium. Two of these institutions still function as psychiatric hospitals. Each has unusual, beautiful and terrifying objects on show ranging from straight-jackets to lobotomy tools, and also collections of ‘outsider art’, but each is also strikingly successful at evoking for their visitors different (and sometimes wildly different) views of madness – strange, worrisome, extreme mental states.
Ranging from a pitch-dark solitary confinement cell to the brightly coloured papier-mache dolls made by long term inmates, from the era of shackles to the era of the talking cure, the history of Europe’s reaction to the madness in its midst as shown by these museums is long and still shifting. Britain doesn’t yet have a national museum of mental illness or psychiatry. Bedlam Hospital in London will take on this role in years to come. What might we learn from the mad houses of Europe?
The July 2012 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are two articles that tackle the history of mental health. The first article describes the work of Arthur Hurst who filmed soldiers suffering from shell shock post World War I. Further films by Hurst were used to convey the message that these soldiers could be “cured” with relative ease. The second mental health related article in this issue explores the relationship between mentally ill smokers and the tobacco industry, including efforts to cast smoking as an activity with positive effects for the mentally ill. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“War Neuroses and Arthur Hurst: A Pioneering Medical Film about the Treatment of Psychiatric Battle Casualties,” by Edgar Jones. The abstract reads,
From 1917 to 1918, Major Arthur Hurst filmed shell-shocked patients home from the war in France. Funded by the Medical Research Committee, and using Pathé cameramen, he recorded soldiers who suffered from intractable movement disorders as they underwent treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley and undertook programs of occupational therapy at Seale Hayne in Devon. As one of the earliest UK medical films, Hurst’s efforts may have drawn inspiration from the official documentary of the Battle of the Somme and films made in 1916 by French Army neurologists. Although initially motivated to make use of a novel medium to illustrate lectures, Hurst was alert to the wider appeal of the motion picture and saw an opportunity to position himself in the postwar medical hierarchy. Some “before treatment” shots were reenacted for the camera. Hurst, like some other shell shock doctors, openly used deception as a therapeutic measure. On the basis that the ends justified the means, they defended this procedure as ethical. Clinicians also took advantage of changes in military regulations to address functional symptoms. Claims made of “cures” in the film and associated publications by Hurst were challenged by other doctors treating shell shock. The absence of follow-up data and evidence from war pension files suggested that Hurst may have overstated the effectiveness of his methods. Nevertheless, the message conveyed in the film that chronic cases could be treated in a single session had a powerful resonance for ambitious or charismatic doctors and was revived in World War II.
The blog H-madness has been posting the syllabi for courses related to madness, mental illness, and psychiatry for the past week or so now. As of today there are 12 syllabi available on their site from professors around the globe. The postings include not only a copy of the syllabus from each course but also some background information about the research interests of the particular professor and how the course came to be developed.