The History of Mental Illness
2nd Revolution: Moral Management.
3rd Revolution:Society Cooperation & Interaction.
by Kimberly Leupo
Treating public illness has long been a process of trial and error guided by public attitudes and medical theory.
The Colonial American society referred to those suffering from mental illnesses as ‘lunatics” which interestingly enough was derived from the root word lunar meaning, “moon.” Through astrological reasoning it was believed that insanity was caused by a full moon at the time of a baby’s birth or a baby sleeping under the light of a full moon. Colonists declared these lunatics possessed by the devil, and usually they were removed from society and locked away.
Those considered lunatics were grouped into two all-encompassing categories: mania and melancholy. The only medical procedures centered around the idea of catharsis. Colonists believed to cure an individual it was necessary to undergo cathartic medical treatment, and to either catalyze crisis or expel crisis from the individual. Such medical procedures involved submerging patients in ice baths until they lost consciousness or executing a massive shock to the brain. Means to expel crisis from the patient included inducing vomiting and the notorious “bleeding” practice. The bleeding practice entailed draining the bad blood from the individual, unfortunately this inhumane practice normally resulted in death or the need for lifelong care; at best the odds were one in three that this procedure would actually lead to an improvement in the patient’s health. Although the colonial era’s methods of handling the mentally ill and medical procedures could be considered barbaric by present- day standards, the vast majority of people were content because the lunatics were no longer