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On The Construction, Organization And General Arrangements Of Hospitals For The Insane (1854)

1186 words - 5 pages

Dr. Thomas Kirkbride was born in 1809 in Pennsylvania. He went to the University of Pennsylvania Medical School originally intending to become a surgeon. However, in 1840 after his training and internship at Friends‘ Asylum, he was offered to become the superintendent of the newly established Pennsylvania Hospital of the Insane. "His ambition, intellect, and strong sense of purpose enabled him to use that position to become one of the most prominent authorities on mental health care in the latter half of the nineteenth century." He soon became the founding member of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, and later was elected the president of the American Psychiatric Association. From his involvement in these organizations and from his writings, he promoted a standardized method of hospital construction and mental health treatment for the insane which is commonly known as "The Kirkbride Plan." He wrote many articles and reviews for medical journals and also published three books. His third book, On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane (1854), was a very technical and thorough collection of his theories on the topic. Dr. Thomas Kirkbride's theories on the architecture, activities, and medical treatment for the mentally ill were the precedents that formed how the mentally ill were treated in the United States society.
Before Kirkbride's standardized methods for mental hospitals, those with mental illness suffered crude and inhuman treatment. Beginning in Colonial America society, people suffering from mental illness were referred to as lunatics. Colonists viewed lunatics as being possessed by the devil, and usually were removed from society and locked away. The only medical treatment for mental illness considered at the time was to expel crisis from the individual. "Such medical procedures involved submerging patients in ice baths until they lost consciousness, executing a massive shock to the brain, inducing vomiting and draining large amounts of "evil" blood." Around 1800, the Europeans fortunately introduced a new approach that replaced the shackles and cement jail cells with a more domestic feel. These facilities that the Europeans introduced were called asylums or country houses. The Europeans discovered that recovery was much more likely if their environment simulated a home. However, the lack of restraints resulted in problems in situations where the patients became unruly. Steady yet slow progress of mental health treatment continued throughout the early 1800s.
The mid 1800s is when the small privately owned asylums transformed into government controlled mental hospitals. Dr. Thomas Kirkbride was the one that lead this transformation in the United States. In 1954, after 14 years of serving as the superintendent of Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, he published On the Construction, Organization and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the...

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