AHP readers in the Toronto area will be interested in the upcoming premiere of a new film series on the history of mental health care in Canada. Keys to Our Past premieres the evening of Wednesday, October 4th at Humber College, the site of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. RSVP for the free event here and watch the series trailer above. Full details below.
Keys to Our Past: Mental Health Film Series Premiere
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
7-9pm (doors at 6:30pm)
Join us on the grounds of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital for the premiere of KEYS TO OUR PAST, an original film series about the history of mental health care in Canada created by the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in partnership with the Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre. Hear about the creation of the asylum system, changes in treatments over time, and the continuing challenge of stigma directly from the writers, producers, and directors of this unique project.
The July 2016 issue of the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences includes an article of interest to AHP readers. The piece describes the use of breathing exercises as a treatment for neurasthenia in Japan in the first half of the twentieth century. Full details follow below.
“A Disorder of Qi: Breathing Exercise as a Cure for Neurasthenia in Japan, 1900–1945,” by Yu-Chuan Wu. The abstract reads,
Neurasthenia became a common disease and caused widespread concern in Japan at the turn of the twentieth century, whereas only a couple of decades earlier the term “nerve” had been unfamiliar, if not unknown, to many Japanese. By exploring the theories and practices of breathing exercise—one of the most popular treatments for neurasthenia at the time—this paper attempts to understand how people who practiced breathing exercises for their nervous ills perceived, conceived, and accordingly cared for their nerves. It argues that they understood “nerve” based on their existing conceptions of qi. Neurasthenia was for them a disorder of qi, although the qi had assumed modern appearances as blood and nervous current. The paper hopes to contribute to the understanding of how the concept of nerves has been accepted and assimilated in East Asia. It also points out the need to understand the varied cultures of nerves not only at the level of concept and metaphor, but also at the level of perception and experience.
“German Battle Casualties: The Treatment of Functional Somatic Disorders during World War I,” by Stefanie Caroline Linden and Edgar Jones. The abstract reads,
World War I witnessed the admission of large numbers of German soldiers with neurological symptoms for which there was no obvious organic cause. This posed a considerable challenge for the military and medical authorities and resulted in an active discussion on the etiology and treatment of these disorders. Current historiography is reliant on published physician accounts, and this represents the first study of treatment approaches based on original case notes. We analyzed patient records from two leading departments of academic psychiatry in Germany, those at Berlin and Jena, in conjunction with the contemporaneous medical literature. Treatment, which can be broadly classified into reward and punishment, suggestion, affective shock, cognitive learning, and physiological methods, was developed in the context of the emerging fields of animal learning and neurophysiology. A further innovative feature was the use of quantitative methods to assess outcomes. These measures showed good response rates, though most cured patients were not sent back to battle because of their presumed psychopathic constitution. While some treatments appear unnecessarily harsh from today’s perspective and were also criticized by leading psychiatrists of the time, the concentration of effort and involvement of so many senior doctors led to the development of psychotherapeutic methods that were to influence the field of psychiatric therapy for decades to come.
Now available free online is the article, “How personality became treatable: The mutual constitution of clinical knowledge and mental health law.” In this article, published in the February 2013 issue of Social Studies of Science, sociologist of science, technology, and medicine Martyn Pickersgill (right), of the University of Edinburgh, describes the move toward treating personality disorders in the United Kingdom and the role of the legal system in such changes. The abstract reads,
In recent years, personality disorders – psychiatric constructs understood as enduring dysfunctions of personality – have come into ever-greater focus for British policymakers, mental health professionals and service-users. Disputes have focussed largely on highly controversial attempts by the UK Department of Health to introduce mental health law and policy (now enshrined within the 2007 Mental Health Act of England and Wales). At the same time, clinical framings of personality disorder have dramatically shifted: once regarded as untreatable conditions, severe personality disorders are today thought of by many clinicians to be responsive to psychiatric and psychological intervention. In this article, I chart this transformation by means of a diachronic analysis of debates and institutional shifts pertaining to both attempts to change the law, and understandings of personality disorder. In so doing, I show how mental health policy and practice have mutually constituted one another, such that the aims of clinicians and policymakers have come to be closely aligned. I argue that it is precisely through these reciprocally constitutive processes that the profound reconfiguration of personality disorder from being an obdurate to a plastic condition has occurred; this demonstrates the significance of interactions between law and the health professions in shaping not only the State’s management of pathology, but also perceptions of its very nature.