Straight jacket

Museum of Mental Illness and Institutions

  • 400

    (B.C.) Humorism

    (B.C.) Humorism
    Hippocrates theorized that an excess in one of the four bodily fuilds (blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phelgm) was responsible for mental illness, and that doing things like blood-letting was the appropriate treatment. He believed that mental illness was not shameful, and that patients should not be held accountable for their behavior. Humorism remained a prominent theory up until the 19th century ("History of Mental Illness").
  • Period: 400 to


  • Jan 1, 1200

    Middle Ages and Mental Illness

    Middle Ages and Mental Illness
    Supernatural theories behind mental disorders dominated Europe between the 11th and 15th centuries, and were fueled by natural disasters such as famines and plagues. Treatments included "Prayer rites, relic touching, confessions, and atonement" ("History of Mental Illness").
  • The Height of Witch Hunts

    The Height of Witch Hunts
    The 15th through 17th centuries brought the height of witch hunts when often times, mentally ill women would be accused of witchcraft because of their abnormal behavior. After the Protestant Reformation caused great religious strife in Europe, two Dominican monks wrote the ultimate manual on how to hunt witches. It was titled "Malleus Maleficarum" ("History of Mental Illness").
  • European Mental Health

    European Mental Health
    St. Mary of Bethlehem in London and the Hôpital Général of Paris are two of the most well-known institutions that began housing the mentally ill in the mid-16th and 17th centuries. The majority of the "Inmates were institutionalized against their will, lived in filth and chained to walls, and were commonly exhibited to the public for a fee" (History of Mental Illness").
  • Inhumane, or Inhuman?

    Inhumane, or Inhuman?
    "While inhumane by today’s standards, the view of insanity at the time likened the mentally ill to animals (i.e., animalism) who did not have the capacity to reason, could not control themselves, were capable of violence without provocation, did not have the same physical sensitivity to pain or temperature, and could live in miserable conditions without complaint. As such, instilling fear was believed to be the best way to restore a disordered mind to reason" ("History of Mental Illness").
  • (B.C.) Trephination

    (B.C.) Trephination
    Trephination is one of the earliest supernatural explanations for mental illnesses. Upon examinations of prehistoric skulls and cave drawings, scientists believe that trephination was the "Surgical drilling of holes in skulls to treat head injuries and epilepsy as well as to allow evil spirits trapped within the skull to be released" ("History of Mental Illness).
  • Eastern State Hospital (a.k.a. "Public Hospital")

    Eastern State Hospital (a.k.a. "Public Hospital")
    Given the title "America's first psychiatric hospital," this instiution was founded in 1773 and still remains functioning today in Williamsburg, Virginia. Eastern State Hospital was "Constructed solely for the care and treatment of the mentally ill" ("History of Eastern State"). Though these kinds of treatments are no longer in use, treatments for mental patients during the 18th century "Consisted of restraint, strong drugs, plunge baths and other 'shock' water treatment" ("Public Hospital").
  • The Beginning of Humane Treatment (Vincenzo Chiarugi)

    The Beginning of Humane Treatment (Vincenzo Chiarugi)
    This Italian physician saw the humanity in mental patients and removed the chains of the patients at his hospital in Florence, and also encouraged good hygiene as well as occupational and recreational training ("History of Mental Illness").
  • The York Retreat

    The York Retreat
    Humanitarian reforms began to rise from religious concerns in England. In 1796, William Tuke helped establish the York Retreat, where "Patients were guests, not prisoners, and where the standard of care depended on dignity and courtesy as well as the therapeutic and moral value of physical work" ("History of Mental Illness").
  • Spring Grove Hospital Center

    Spring Grove Hospital Center
    Formally known as Captain Yellott's "Retreat," est. in 1794 in Baltimore, this institution was originally used as a hospital for infirm seafarers. Captain Yellott and his associates petitioned to upgrade the Retreat to a larger hospital, and in 1797, their efforts were rewarded. Due to the population of mental illness in the area, the mission of the new hospital was "To provide for the relief of indigent sick persons, and for the reception and care of lunatics" ("Spring Grove History").
  • Treatment Shifts in America

    Treatment Shifts in America
    In the first half of the 19th century, America follows suit behind England and Europe, and its asylums adopt psychogenic treatments such as compassionate care and physical labor ("History of Mental Illness").
  • Boston Prison Discipline Society

    Boston Prison Discipline Society
    Those in mental institutions were treated much more like prisoners than patients. There were cruel treatments, lack of care, and a general hatred and dispproval by those surrounding these people. The maltreatment of patients inspired the founding of many more mental health facilities, as well as upsetting certain individuals, such as Rev. Louis Dwight. He created the Boston Prison Discipline Society in 1826, which called for better treatment and care of the mentally ill ("Reports").
  • America Shifts Back

    America Shifts Back
    In many cases, "Moral treatment had to be abandoned in America in the second half of the 19th century, however, when these asylums became overcrowded and custodial in nature and could no longer provide the space nor attention necessary" ("History of Mental Illness").
  • (B.C.) Hysteria

    (B.C.) Hysteria
    "Mesopotamian and Egyptian papyri from 1900 BC describe women suffering from mental illness resulting from a wandering uterus (later named hysteria by the Greeks): The uterus could become dislodged and attached to parts of the body like the liver or chest cavity, preventing their proper functioning or producing varied and sometimes painful symptoms" ("History of Mental Illness").
  • Today's Mental Health Institutions (Anchor Hospital, GA)

    Today's Mental Health Institutions (Anchor Hospital, GA)
    There have been countless improvements and changes since the start of mental institutions. "Today, the number of people with mental illnesses living in hospitals or institutions is well under 40,000. This significant reduction reflects the change in the way our society generally views mental illnesses and other disabilities; that people belong in communities and not institutions" ("Changes in the Mental Health System").