16 January 2019

16th January 1956 - Riots and Overcrowding in Mental Hospitals

On 16th January 1956 there were 2 newspaper reports about Mental Hospitals: one of rioting, one of overcrowding.

In one report firemen turned hoses on 8 mental patients who barricaded themselves in and began throwing furniture and crockery at members of the hospital staff. The incident happened at Lennox Castle Institution, Lennoxtown, Stirlingshire. Afterwards, the patients were sedated, and a public enquiry ordered.

At the enquiry it was reported that a fight took place over a personal matter between two patients in a dormitory, and other patients took sides. Many windows were broken. The group of 25 patients were transferred to another unit. Then eight of the patients, still excited, started to break windows in the new unit. The report decided 'the cause of the incidents was the mental condition of the patients concerned and that the patients were not suffering from any particular grievance.' People living near the hospital were reported as being worried by the lack of supervision.

In the same paper is a report of the visit of  Mr. Denis Howell, M.P to Shelton Mental Hospital, Shrewsbury, after complaints he had received. He said that conditions there, especially for the staff, appalled him.

On a second visit a year later, reported on 16th January 1957, Mr Howell again commented on overcrowding at the hospital. The hospital spokesman said '£12,000 had been spent in the past year on improving conditions. The buildings, however, would never be perfect because they were built to house 500 patients, not 1,000'. The spokesman added 'I do not like the problem of mental hospitals being turned into a stamping ground for politics.'

Thankyou to British Newspaper Archive on 16th January 1956
and British Newspaper Archive on 16th January 1957 for these articles.

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