Category Archives: mental hospitals

Psychoanalysis is that mental illness for which it regards itself as therapy

An American psychologist by the name of John Gartner argues that Donald Trump should be removed from office on psychiatric grounds:

We live in a pre-fascist society…The German psychiatric association said nothing during the rise of Hitler…We are facing a crisis that threatens to engulf the world in flames…Trump meets standards for commitment and should be required to undergo psychiatric evaluation, whether he wants to or not…The man is threatening to murder an entire country…We cannot call the authorities because the homicidal patient is the authorities.

Dalrymple notes that Gartner

displays no knowledge of or imaginative insight into what it is like to live in a totalitarian dictatorship—his Jewishness notwithstanding—despite countless memoirs, academic books, and films attesting to and describing life under authoritarian rule. Such ignorance or lack of imagination is culpable. For an American to compare contemporary life in the USA, no doubt unsatisfactory as it is in many respects, with life in a fascist dictatorship is self-dramatising, self-pitying, and an insult to those millions who suffered or died under totalitarian dictatorships.

It is legitimate to oppose the government and to despise the person of the president;

it is another thing to claim jurisdiction over whether he should be entitled to be president and whether he ought to be removed by committal to a mental institution. In the Soviet Union, psychiatrists occupied the kind of commissarship that Gartner is appealing for.

Gartner

shows an implicit contempt for US institutions and history if he thinks that the election of one allegedly unstable man can turn his country into a fascist dictatorship almost overnight.

He is

what Kraus said of psychoanalysis, a cause of the disease it pretends to cure. He believes that people who show instability, anger, paranoia, feelings of persecution, and cognitive confusion would and should be involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation.

Dalrymple suggests that Gartner read Chekhov’s 1892 short story Ward No. 6, in which Dr Ragin is committed to his own asylum.

Laxative therapy for agitated paranoiacs

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 07.33.57

Lomax’s 1921 exposé

For most of their existence, writes Dalrymple, mental hospitals were

custodial rather than therapeutic institutions.

Their methods could be somewhat crude. In The Experiences of An Asylum Doctor, With Suggestions for Asylum and Lunacy Law Reform (1921), Montagu Lomax, a medical officer at Prestwich Asylum,

described how he and his colleagues treated suicidal melancholics and agitated paranoiacs. They sat the melancholics against a wall, placing a bench in front of them to prevent them from moving, while an attendant watched them to ensure that they did not do away with themselves.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 07.49.48Croton oil, a very powerful laxative,

subdued the agitation of the paranoiacs, who became so preoccupied with the movement of their bowels that they had no time or energy left to act upon the content of their delusions.

A leading theory, Dalrymple notes, was that of focal sepsis.

One of the asylums of my city had the best-equipped operating theatre of its time, where an enthusiastic psychiatrist partially eviscerated his patients and removed all their teeth, on the theory that madness was caused by a chronic but undetected and subclinical infection in the organs that he removed.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 08.31.18Later, a visiting neurosurgeon

used the theatre to perform lobotomies on patients who were scarcely aware of what was being done to them.

Doctors also tried

more ‘advanced’ treatments, such as insulin coma therapy, in which they gave schizophrenic patients insulin to lower their blood sugars to the point at which they became unconscious, sometimes with fatal effect.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 07.36.29

Companion volume to the Lomax work

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 07.39.32Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 07.52.49Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 07.54.20

Prestwich Asylum

Prestwich Asylum

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 08.13.20

A leading proponent of focal sepsis theory was Henry Cotton of the New Jersey State Hospital for the Insane, Trenton

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 08.24.46

Patients became so busy with their bowels, they had no time to act on their delusions