Sunday, December 4, 2011

Psychiatric Care for the Mentally Ill during The Great Depression

Mental Institutions were a popular and common habitat for persons with mental illness during The Great Depression.  However, conditions in state mental institutions deteriorated as a result of Depression-era financial hardships and the resource and personnel demands of the war. Decaying physical plants and extreme overcrowding were common. (Overview of Mental Health)

Although it had come a long way from the days of simply restraining and locking away the mentally ill, psychiatric care in the 1930s was still very limited. There was essentially no treatment for schizophrenic patients, for example. Psychiatrists attempted to treat their symptoms by prescribing drugs like sedatives, which suppressed the patient's nervous system, and trying a number of different mind-body therapies. (Freeman)

There were also some new methods of treatment for the mentally ill introduced during this era.
Insulin shock and metrazol shock therapies and surgical technique of prefrontal lobotomy were developed.  Soon after, Electroconvulsive therapy replaced some of these procedures.

The original lobotomy was a medical procedure where the neural passages from the front of the brain are surgically separated from those in the back of the brain. The common result of this procedure was the patient forgetting their depressing or discouraging feelings or tendencies. This was a very delicate, time-consuming procedure that required great skill and training from the practicing surgeons. Because the lobotomy appeared to effectively alter the mental health of patients, great effort was invested into developing a more practical procedure with similar desired results. (The History of Mental Illness)

Works Cited:

Freeman, S. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "Psychiatric Care in the 1930s". HowStuffWorks "Science". Retrieved December 2, 2011, from

Overview of Mental Health in New York and the Nation. (n.d.). New York State Archives. Retrieved December 1, 2011, from

The History of Mental Illness. (n.d.). Kathi's Mental Health Review - The Book 5150, Infantilism, BPD, Advocacy and more. Retrieved December 4, 2011, from

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