23 May 2019

23rd May 1586 - first book about Mental Illness in English


Timothy Bright was a Doctor of Physicke and a man of the church, who wrote what is thought to be the first book about Mental Illness in the English Language. Bright's Treatise of Melancholy was published on 23rd May 1586.

Melancholy was a fmalady in Elizabethan times which Bright suggested had two forms: natural melancholy involved a disordered condition of the body due to excess of black bile which led to the spirit being sad. There was also unnatural melancholy, arising from a disordered physical condition of black bile itself where "the whole force of the spirit closed up in the dungeon of melancholy darkness, imagining all as dark, black and full of fear."

Whether William Shakespeare had read the work is not known for sure. In one account I read that the aspiring playright was asked to proof read Bright's book. Melancholy affects many of Shakespeare's characters including Hamlet, Pericles, and Jaques (from As you Like It).

Hamlet says 'How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!'

Pericles says "The sad companion, dull-eyed melancholy,
Be my so used a guest as not an hour,
In the day's glorious walk, or peaceful night,
The tomb where grief should sleep, can breed me quiet?"

Jaques says "I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, which is fantastical; nor the courtier's, which is proud; nor the soldier's, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer's, which is politic; nor the lady's, which is nice; nor the lover's, which is all these; but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and, indeed, the sundry contemplation of my travels; in which my often rumination wraps me in a most humorous sadness."

The date is from David Webb's book On this day in Psychology

22 May 2019

22nd May 2019 - Whorlton Hall Panorama


Panorama again uncovered and showed abuse in a care hospital for people with learning disabilities and autism. The private hospital funded by the NHS was called Whorlton Hall. This happened eight years after Panorama uncovered abuse at Winterbourne View where an undercover reporter filmed residents being kicked, punched, and mocked. After that scandal the government said such institutions would be closed down and that has not happened. Back then there were 3,400 people with learning disabilities or autism in such institutions, far from home and longer than is necessary. That number is now around 2,300. Such institutions have not yet been consigned to history and replaced with smaller housing in the community, as recommended by the report that followed the Winterbourne View Panorama.

21 May 2019

21st May 1873 - Hans Berger Born


Hans Berger, the inventor of the Electroencephalogram, was born on 21st May 1873. He was interested in finding whether physical activity in the brain correlated with the thoughts that go on in our head. He was once nearly run over, and his sister immediately became concerned about his health. So Berger began to wonder whether psychic energy had been transmitted to her in some way.

He trained as a psychiatrist and his investigations led him to try to measure what was going on in the brain by attaching two electrodes to the surface of the head and connecting them with a string galvanometer. He called it an Electroencephalogram. By this means he detected regular fluctuation in current at about 10 cycles a second when the person was resting. The rhythm became more difficult to measure if the person was aroused. Berger called this the alpha rhythm or resting rhythm. According to wikipedia he was a modest man, and fellow doctors and psychiatrists thought him a bit of a crank. But then some years later his measurements were authenticated by scientists in England, and the Electroencephalogram became of great interest in brain research. Now he is known as the inventor of the Electroencephalogram and the person who discovered alpha waves.

Thankyou to today in psychology history for the date.

20 May 2019

20th May 1864 - John Clare dies


The poet John Clare died at 4:55pm on 20th May 1864 in Northampton General Asylum, in which he had been many years an inmate.

John was born in the village of Helpstone, and his father was a farm labourer. John, a gifted boy, paid for his own schooling in the evening by work as a ploughboy in the day. On being shown Thomson's poetry book Seasons, Clare worked extra to get a shilling and then walked miles to buy a copy. He was so excited by the poems, and started to write his own poetry. He knew country ways, and birds and animals better than any poet, and wrote of these, and of love. He had loved and lost his first love, as her father banned the poor ploughboy from seeing his daughter, and then married his second love, and had a number of children. His poems got good reviews and he became well known as the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet, and earned money from his writing. The way was not always smooth.

He wrote in one poem I love to walk the fields; they are to me A legacy no evil can destroy.

But then the hallucinations began which gradually got worse until those who loved him decided that some restraint was needed and he was sent to a private asylum in High Beach, Essex from 1837–41 . So he was taken from the village and the life he loved so well.

He escaped and walked the 80 miles back to his home village and tried to find his first sweetheart, for whom he still had a lasting love. But she had died in a fire while he was at the asylum. He stayed at the village for some months until his wife and others decided that he needed care again, and he was taken to Northampton General Asylum where he lived for the rest of his life. He continued to write poetry, making perfect sense in verse, whereas he apparently made little sense otherwise. There was thought to be madness in the family as the cause of insanity was put down as hereditary by one doctor, and too much poesy by another.

Thankyou to the obituary in The Bedfordshire Times and Independent - 4th June 1864 for some of the details - found in the British Newspaper Archive. Thankyou to the Mental Health Timeline for the date.

First Love's Recollections

First love will with the heart remain
When all its hopes are by,
As frail rose blossoms still retain
Their fragrance till they die;
And joy's first dreams will haunt the mind
With shades from whence they sprung,
As Summer leaves the stems behind
On which Spring's blossoms clung.

Mary, I dare not call thee dear,
I've lost the right so long,
Yet once again I vex thine ear
With memory's idle song.
had time and change not blotted out
The love of former days
Thou wert the last that I should doubt
Of pleasing with my praise.

When honied tokens from each tongue
Told with what truth we loved,
How rapturous to thy lips I clung
Whilst nought but smiles reproved;
But now methinks if one kind word
Were whispered in thy ear
Thou'dst startle like an untamed bird
And blush with wilder fear.

How loath to part, how fond to meet
Had we two used to be;
At sunset with what eager feet
I hastened on to thee.
Scarce nine days passed ere we met
In Spring, nay wintry weather;
Now nine years' suns have risen and set
Nor found us once together.

Thy face was so familiar grown,
Thyself so often by,
A moment's memory when alone
Would bring thee to mine eye;
But now my very dreams forget
That witching look to trace;
Though there thy beauty lingers yet
It wears a stranger face.

I felt a pride to name thy name
But now that pride hath flown,
My words e'en seem to blush for shame
That own I love thee on.
I felt I then thy heart did share
Nor urged a binding vow;
But much I doubt if thou couldst spare
One word of kindness now.

And what is now my name to thee,
Though once nought seemed so dear?
Perhaps a jest in hours of glee
To please some idle ear;
And yet like counterfeits with me
Impressions linger on
Though all the gilded finery
That passed for truth is gone.

Ere the world smiled upon my lays,
A sweeter meed was mine-
Thy blushing look of ready praise
Was raised at every line,
But now methinks thy fervent love
Is changed to scorn severe
And songs that other hearts approve
Seem discord to thine ear.

When last thy gentle cheek I pressed
And heard thee feign adieu,
I little thought that seeming jest
Would prove a word so true.
A fate like this hath oft befell
E'en loftier hopes than ours;
Spring bids full many buds to swell
That ne'er can grow to flowers.

John Clare (all rights reserved)

19 May 2019

19th May 1929 - Dr Alfred Adler Interview


On the 19th May 1929 an article about Dr Alfred Adler, the Austrian Psychiatrist, appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

It goes on to say how people in 1929 were increasingly knowledgeable about psychology. "The individual who formerly suffered from "nerves" or was "not all there" has now become psychothenic, neurathenic, psychopathic, manic_depressive and dozens of other names."

It says that with all these new names and ideas that the psychologists and psychiatrists are becoming the great men of that time. "Towering above the whole brood of petty, mediocre, and even great psychologists is Dr Alfred Adler... who discovered the inferiority complex."

There follows an interview with the great man himself. He compares peaceful life in Austria with the more frenetic life of New York citizens, and suggests it would do all of them good to spend two months a year in peaceful Austria.

He goes on to explain that an inferiority complex can be something that motivates people. It affects the bossy, overbearing person as much as the shy, timid person. The former are overcompensating.

He says that striving to overcome a perceived inferiority can also turn out great artists and scientists who put all their energy into compensating for their perceived failure. But on the whole Adler sees the feeling of inferiority as harmful, as it is usually anti-social. So he tries to affect cures particularly in children.

Thanks to David Webb's book On this Day in Psychology for pointing out the date. Detail of the interview can be found at newspapers.com.

18 May 2019

18th May 1814 - Norfolk County Asylum opened


On 18th May 1814 the Norfolk County Asylum opened near Norwich. It was the third oldest county asylum after Nottinghamshire and Bedfordshire. But Norwich had a hundred year history of asylum provision at the charitable asylum at Bethel, and so the new county asylum was additional.

From 1808 counties were encouraged to build county asylums after the '1808 Act for the better Care and Maintenance of Lunatics, being Paupers or Criminals in England' . In 1845 County Asylum building became compulsory.

The building of the Norfolk County Asylum in Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew in 1814 allowed room for around 140 patients.  It had an administration block at the centre and accommodation flanking it on either side. For males on one side there were: single and double cells, day-rooms and airing courts for convalescents, lunatics, and incurables. There was a similar arrangement for females on the other side of the admin block.This allowed for the segregation of the sexes and communication within the Asylum.

A nearby site, connected by a bridge, was added in 1881 allowing first 700 and then 1000 patients.

More details are available at http://www.geograph.org.uk/article/The-Norfolk-Lunatic-Asylum---St-Andrews-Hospital. Thankyou to British Newspaper Archive for the date. Reading the Norfolk Chronicle on 7th May 1814 ...

THE Committee of Visiting Justices for managing the NORFOLK LUNATIC ASYLUM, lately erected at Thorpe, intend Meeting Saturday, the 14th day May next precisely, at twelve o'clock, at the Shirehouse, to receive proposals for serving the Asylum from the 18th day of May next, to Midsummer following, with BEEF and MUTTON. FLOUR and BREAD. BEER. GROCERY. More details was given of these provisions. Although grocery is left to the grocer as it says GROCERY. - Good Norfolk or Gloster Cheese, Candle, Soap, and all other articles of Grocery necessary for the supply of the House. 

17 May 2019

17th May 1912 - Feeble Minded Persons Control Bill


On 17th May 1912 a private members bill was brought before parliament called the Feeble Minded Persons Control Bill. The object of this bill appeared to be to prevent the increase and propagation of Feeble Minded Persons by controlling their lives. It was an attempt to improve the general population by practising eugenics - the controlled and selective breeding of the human race.

The bill was defeated but in 1913 The Mental Deficiency Act was introduced by government and introduced more categories of persons to be controlled. It ended up sentencing people, who had committed no crime, to imprisonment for life in institutions. To read the debate in Hansard see https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/commons/1912/may/17/feeble-minded-persons-control-bill

Thankyou to Mental Health Timeline for the date.