Charlotte Gilman’s Role In The Ethical Development Of Psychology

936 words - 4 pages

Of all the studies of medicine, psychology is the only field that observes the mind and how it functions. The study of mental health did not truly start until the late 1800’s, during which, Weir Mitchell created the “Rest Cure” for the treatment of Neurasthenia, otherwise known as nervous breakdown. Eventually this treatment was prescribed exclusively for women, becoming a source of sexism and manipulation. In response to her personal experience with the rest cure, Charlotte Gilman used her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" to display the ineffectiveness of the Rest Cure due to the male-favored society, and the lack of concern for the women under the treatment due to the lack of ...view middle of the document...

[She thinks] it is due to this nervous condition” (line 24). This line is evidence that the treatment remained ineffective because of the manipulation that was taking place. Even though the treatment did not work, it was revolutionary for the time because doctors actually recognized mental illnesses as something that needed treatment.

Before Mitchell developed the “Rest Cure” only unethical, and sometimes cruel, treatments were available to those suffering from emotional and mental ailments. Often patients were placed in asylums that believed that “patients needed to choose rationality over insanity” which led to coercion techniques such as: threats, blistering, and straightjackets (Foerschner).Eventually, towards the end of the 19th century, reforms to improve the conditions within institutions lead to a period of experimental use of therapies and drugs. Developed in 1873, the Rest Cure was initially intended for recovering veterans of the Civil War, eventually it was used for any unexplained nervous problems, placed under the umbrella term “Neurasthenia”, that have been identified as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other stress related diseases (Martin & Poirier). Neurasthenia was based on the concept of nervous energy and the health and capability of the nervous system. Different solutions were prescribed to men and women due to the thought that women were weaker, because it was believed they needed rest to build up their “nervous energy”. On the other hand, Men were prescribed a vigorous lifestyle to keep themselves occupied and avoid their nervousness (University of Virginia).

In "The Yellow Wallpaper" Jane, the narrator and main character, insinuates that the men do not truly understand and sympathize with her mental illness. She claims: "John laughs at me . . ." (line 5) and often...

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