From Madness to Mental Health

Available beginning February 15, this anthology of primary sources chronicles the history of madness and psychiatry in western civilization, from ancient Israel to contemporary randomized clinical trials.  It also includes an updated bibliography of first-person narratives of mental illness compiled by Gail A. Hornstein. For more information click here.

To hear an interview with the author, click here.

Asylum of San Servolo

In the latest issue of  Psychiatrie Sciences Humaines Neurosciences the French psychiatrist  Granger tells the story of San Servolo, an island situated between San Marco and the Lido, from the 11th century on: first as the seat of a convent than of a mental hospital till its closure in the 1970s thanks to  the law n°180.

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Call for Paper – EASA, 2010: Crisis and resolution: imagination and the transformation of psychiatric care

Psychiatry represents an institution at the intersection of social solidarity and exclusion, with the specific configuration of these two elements differing in various historical and cultural contexts. Looking at the history of psychiatric care, one could argue that its evolutions were achieved through various crises (the crisis of the asylum and the anti-psychiatry movement, psychiatry’s inability to care for mentally ill living in the streets, human rights abuses…). For various reasons, the resolutions of these crises often relied on the creativity of groups or individuals with very practical consequences for introducing new forms of care – Basaglia’s proposals are just one compelling example among many. Often through such creative solutions, all Western countries have undertaken significant reorganization of their psychiatric care systems in the past 50 years, which also inspired changes to psychiatric care in less developed countries.

This workshop calls for reflection on the impact of ‘crisis rhetoric’ with regard to specific social, political and legal circumstances, and the role of imagination in informing the practices of caring and curing. We aim to explore how ideas on the appropriate forms of psychiatric care reflect specific cultural expectations and ideologies, and how the role of family, community, profession and the state in taking care of the mentally ill is negotiated in different contexts. Finally, we want to address the ways in which the anthropological perspective and research has been involved in, and is still challenged by these transformations.

For more informations, click here.

Nicolas Henckes in Genèses

In a recent number of the French journal of social history, Genèses, Nicolas Henckes publishes an article on the psychiatric hospital reform during the 20th century in France.

The abstract: Borrowing the view of institutions developed by symbolic interactionism and the adopting the point of view of reform process trajectories, this article proposes a framework for analysing psychiatric hospital reform during the 20th century. It objects to the idea that the reform was linked to an institutional crisis and emphasises, on the contrary, the work required to create the conditions under which a certain number of problems can be raised and discussed by the actors at the various moments in history.

Deutschlandfunk on psychiatry in the GDR

Mid-january the German public radio Deutschlandfunk had a feature about psychiatry in the GDR. The manuscript of the program can be found here

A new book on the history of schizophrenia

Jonathan M. Metzl, author of the well-known Prozac on the Couch, publishes a new book  of how schizophrenia became the diagnostic term overwhelmingly applied to African-American men in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.  For more, click here.

Jonathan M. Metzl, The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010).

Jonathan Goodheart on Insane Poor in Nineteenth-Century Connecticut

In the latest edition of  the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (1/2010) Jonathan Goodheart publishes an article on Insane Poor in Nineteenth-Century Connecticut.

The Abstract: Connecticut was the exception among the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic states in not founding a public institution for the insane until after the Civil War when it opened the Hospital for the Insane at Middletown in 1868, a facility previously neglected by scholars. The state had relied on the expedient of subsidizing the impoverished at the private Hartford Retreat for the Insane that overtaxed that institution and left hundreds untreated. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, well meaning officials oversold the idea that the Middletown site would promote cures and be cost effective. A number of unanticipated consequences occurred that mirrored fundamental changes in nineteenth-century psychiatry. The new hospital swelled by 1900 to over 2,000 patients, the largest in New England. Custodianship at the monolithic hospital became the norm. The hegemony of monopoly capitalism legitimated the ruling idea that bigger institutions were better and was midwife to the birth of eugenic responses. Class based psychiatry—the few rich at the Retreat and the many poor at Middletown—was standard as it was in other aspects of the Gilded Age. Public policy toward the insane poor in Connecticut represents an outstanding example of the transition from antebellum romanticism to fin de siècle fatalism.

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