A history of mental health care in Manitoba : a local manifestation of an international social movement
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Two hundred years ago reformers began to suggest that a group of people called lunatics, who were kept in deplorable conditions in asylums and private mad houses, were actually "ill" and amenable to treatment. A social movement gathered force in Eng]and, first to improve the quality of asylum care and then to expand the number of these institutions so that all who needed treatment could be cured. Lunacy reform was introduced into Canada during the middle years of the nineteenth century by Dorthea Dix who crusaded throughout North America to persuade governments to provide asylum care for the mentally ill. Although the history of the mental hospital has received considerable attention in both the United States and Britain, the historical literature of the development of the asylum in Canada has been fragmentary. The present study has been undertaken to examine the history of the mental health system in one province and thereby to document a portion of the Canadian experience more fully. The development of a mental health system in Manitoba was seen as consistent in most respects with the history of early asylums elsewhere in North America. At first lunatics were handled spontaneously by the members of the frontier community, but very soon the penitentiary became the accepted place for holding such misfits. The provision of an asylum under the direction of a physician was seen as an important step in providing the kind of care which would cure these people. However, by the time of World War I, it was evident that asylum treatment alone could not cure mental illness. Psychiatrists began to look beyond the asylum for more effective treatments, but none of the treatments developed--neither psychopathic hospital, nor psychotherapy, nor shock treatments--were effective in controlling the spiraling asylum population. Finally the medical superintendents in Manitoba, like their counterparts in all of North America, began to send long-term patients back to the community, and. the asylum was reorganized to provide only short term care...