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INSANITY. History





Category: Diseases of The Nervous System

The earliest reference to insanity is found in the
book of Deuteronomy. Another reference is in Samuel where it speaks
concerning David's cunning and successful feigning of insanity. "And he
changed his behavior before them and feigned himself mad in their hands,
and scrabbled on the door-posts of the gate, and let his spittle fall down
upon his beard," Feigning insanity under distressing circumstances has
been one of man's achievements throughout the centuries. It is spoken of
in Ecclesiastes. Jeremiah says in regard to the wine cup: "And they shall
drink and be moved and be mad." Nations also were poisoned by the wine
cup, for Jeremiah says, "Babylon has been a golden cup in the Lord's
hands, that made all the earth drunken. The nations have drunken of her
wine, therefore the nations are mad." Greek writers speak of cases of
mental unsoundness as occurring with some frequency in Greece. The
inhabitants of the Roman Empire were afflicted with mental unsoundness and
Nero was considered crazy. In ancient Egypt there were temples and priests
for the care of the insane.



Hippocrates, who lived four hundred years before Christ, was the first
physician who seemed to have any true conception of the real nature of
insanity. For many centuries later the masses believed that madness was
simply a visitation of the devil. The insane, in the time of Christ, were
permitted to wander at large among the woods and caves of Palestine. The
monks built the first hospital or asylum for the insane six centuries
after Christ.

A hospital for the insane was established at Valencia in Spain in 1409. In
1547 the hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem was established near London and
was known as "Bedlam" for a long time.

The first asylum to be run upon reform principles was St. Luke's of
London, founded in 1751. About 1791 Samuel Hahnemann established an asylum
for the insane at Georgenthal, near Gotha, and the law of kindness was the
unvarying rule in the institution. Hahnemann says in his Lesser Writings:
"I never allow any insane persons to be punished by blows or other
corporeal inflictions." Pineli struck the chains from the incarcerated
insane at the Bicetre, near Paris in 1792 or 1793.

There has been a gradual tendency during the last century toward better
things in the behalf of the insane. A hundred years ago they were treated
with prison surroundings and prison fare. Then asylum treatment began to
prevail. This means close confinement, good food, sufficient clothing and
comfortable beds. Asylum care means the humane custody of dangerous
prisoners. "From the asylum we move on to the hospital system of caring
for the insane and this system recognizes the fact that the lunatic is a
sick man and needs nursing and medical treatment in order to be cured.
Hospital treatment has been gradually introduced during the past thirty
years or more," and in time it will eventually supercede asylum treatment
and prison or workhouse methods in the management of the insane
everywhere.





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