Centuries ago, Europeans would make an afternoon of going to the local asylum for entertainment. They’d have breakfast, get dressed, and then spend their Sunday gawking at the antics of those who suffered from “madness”. It was like something out of the best stage play, except that it was real, and that made it all the more exciting. Even now, when someone says a wild situation is “bedlam”, they’re unwittingly making a reference to Bethlehem Hospital, an 18th century London asylum for the mentally ill.
Today, in a world where mental health issues are becoming easier to talk about, the concept of an insane asylum or a mental institution seems outmoded. In reality, these spaces still exist, operating for those among us most in need of help and close supervision. But what is it like to truly be on the inside of an institution? What do patient’s days look like and how are they treated?
Ekaterina Netchitailova, PhD, shared her thoughts on being a patient inside an institution with the website Mad in America. Netchitailova’s unblinking, somewhat political, look behind the locked doors of the modern institution are shared from her perspective of being both patient and doctor.
“The mental health narrative of today is the continuation of the history of the psychiatry, beginning with the age they call “enlightenment,” when the doors were closed to the curious, and only the patients and treating “doctors” were allowed inside,” she writes. “I am not sure it was done out of good will, because it banned the witnesses of the injustices happening there. It is really taking the truth out of the terrifying tale hidden in the modern mental health narrative. People are often held against their will inside these institutions, though their only “crime” is that they dared to have weird thoughts or hear voices.”
Netchitailova goes on to describe the reasons why a person would not want to end up in an institution and how she believes the system of keeping patients held behind those walls is broken. While we hope that a space can be made in this world for all mental illness to be dealt with in a caring, professional manner, this is one narrative that shows how much further our society has to go.
To read the Netchitailova’s post in its entirety, visit https://www.madinamerica.com/2020/04/a-peek-inside-the-modern-asylum/