Mental Institutions and Horror Movies

By ELC33
  • 1000 BCE


    During our time in humanity, there have always been mentally ill people. First documented in the BC by Egyptians, the original beliefs were that they were possessed by good or evil spirits. Throughout the years the treatment of the mentally ill was shifted based on the world's beliefs at the time. There was some humane treatment and some torturous treatments. While examining all the archives there were problems digging through to find sufficient media.
  • 1000 BCE

    Introduction part 2

    Since there were so many years that featured mental illness my goal was to express and reflect on the treatment, to inquire and explore the different time periods, and inform and explain what it was like. After getting a timeline of the mental illness trends, I was able to look at horror movies that feature asylums to see what tropes were created and how they displayed the treatment of the patients. Overall, it opened my eyes and hopefully yours on the stigmas and truths compared to history.
  • 460 BCE

    Early Mental illness

    Early Mental illness
    The first sign of mental illness in history is from 16 BC in Egypt, they believed the cause was possession, either good or evil spirits. It wasn't until Hippocrate in 460-377 BC that shifted the idea of possession to natural causes. He recommended calm life, sobriety, a vegetable diet, and celibacy for the treatment.
  • 1500

    Middle Ages

    Middle Ages
    The first mental hospital was established in Baghdad in AD 792, humane treatment was practiced. At the same time in Europe, mentally ill people were 'treated' with prayer, holy water, the breath of the priest, and exorcism. For women who had signs of mental illness, it was more common to be tried as a witch.
  • Trephination

    The first sign of trephination, or the act of drilling surgical holes into the skulls of the mentally ill to release the evil spirits inside.
  • The Inhumane Treatment

    The Inhumane Treatment
    The common treatment of the mentally ill was worst than animals. They were restrained and forced into ice baths, Lobotomy, religious 'interventions', shock therapy, and isolation. All which are not propper treatments
  • First Mental Institution in America

    First Mental Institution in America
    The first psychiatric hospital in America is called Eastern State Hospital. The treatment here into the 18 century was restraints, strong drugs, plunge baths, and shock treatment.
  • US Asylum Reformer: Dorothea Dix

    US Asylum Reformer: Dorothea Dix
    Dorthea Dix observed the mistreatment of mentally ill patients. Of her need to provide more humane hospitals she established five state hospitals for the mentally ill.
  • Alienists

    Alienists (medical professionals) gained control over the asylums and started to incorporate moral management therapy along with physical medical procedures. Although torture devices died down things such as the straight jacket were used to "quiet" patients.
  • First Horror Movie featuring an Asylum

    First Horror Movie featuring an Asylum
    In the movie Bedlam (1946), Nell Bowen wants to help change the conditions of St. Mary's of Bethlehem Asylum. While she is trying to reform the asylum the Master Sims has her committed there instead, where she sees the 'lunatics' who have taken over.
  • Late 1900s

    Late 1900s
    During the 1940s there were roughly 400,000 patients in mental institutions. This caused concern about humane mental health care in overcrowded hospitals. The Community Mental Health Act of 1963 helped create programs for outpatient psychiatric clinics and rehabilitation programs.
  • Horror movie featuring experimentation

    Horror movie featuring experimentation
    In The Unearthly (1957), this 'mad' doctor uses his isolated psychiatric institute as subjects to conduct experiments to create longevity by surgically installing an artificial gland into their skull. This is historically the first movie (in America) that installs fear of doctors and asylums.
  • Public Figures on mental health

    Public Figures on mental health
    There was a lot of focus on handling the mentally ill. Public figures such as President John F. Kennedy had a goal to end 'retardation' and get people back into working society. The terms and slurs that today are insensitive was a norm then.
  • JFK part 2

    JFK part 2
    Pictured is the introduction to JFK's speech about mentally ill patients and asylums.
  • Late 1900 horror movie

    Late 1900 horror movie
    The trope 'murderous mentally ill patients' started in the movie 'Don't Look in the Basement (1973), where newly hired nurse Charlotte arrives at the mental institution when the doctor is killed by a homicidal patient. Deciding to work there anyways she started to question the treatments of the hospital and struggled with her own sanity.
  • 2016 Current Mental institutions

    2016 Current Mental institutions
    Today there are about 40,000 mentally ill patients living in hospitals or institutions. The shift in how to treat mentally ill people shows that they should not be locked away but rather belong in the community.
  • 2000s horror movies

    2000s horror movies
    In the movie Asylum (2008), where six college students learn that their dorm used to be an insane asylum in the 1930s. At this asylum, they conducted lobotomies on the teenage inmates. Even after reform, there is still the idea that mental institutions that mistreated their patients cause hauntings.
  • Conclusion of Horror Movies

    As shown in the movie examples there are many stereotypes and tropes that directors use. The paranormal ex-patient, the crazy psych doctor, and the murderous patient. Looking back historically the mistreatment could have caused this plot. But in the end mental institutions had a long journey to become humane, and the horror movies don't help share that mainstream idea. Should this still be okay as these movies cause disdain and fear towards the mentally ill and the mental institutions?