is the science of mind and behavior, the mental or behavioral characteristics of an individual or group, the study of mind and behavior in relation to a particular field of knowledge or activity and a theory or system of psychology
is any of a broad range of medical conditions (such as major depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, or panic disorder) that are marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning and cause marked distress or disability and that are typically associated with a disruption in normal thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, interpersonal interactions, or daily functioning
Are there mental illnesses as long as human beings? Possible. Everybody knows that time changes people and the way they live. But how is it explainable that mental illnesses aren’t taken seriously in the 21. century? How is it possible there are too less psychological help such as therapy? Why does the society still know nothing about mental health and there is no help in general for affected once?
By looking at the process of how mental health was and is treated there will be some answers to those questions. One thing is for sure, mentally ill people never ever got the chance to live an easy life.
Greeks and Romans did know nothing about the human brain and hadn’t a chance to explore it cause to examine bodies was forbidden.
Even though they thought about mental health and doctor Hippokrates was able to seperate melancolia and mania from “normality”. His explanation for those were the lack of „body-liquid”.
The greek philosopher Platon was the first one who started to really study the human mind in 347 before Christ. He for example created the “layer model of the soul”:
According to him the soul contained two parts. The reasonable one which does the thinking, knowledge and the sense. And the desiring one which is the unreasonable, stupid one.
After that the cognition of mental health from the antiqutiy totally got lost in medialeval times.
People who we now know, got mental illnesses, were considered as possessed by the devil, punished by god or voluntary servants of the devil. At the same time the population was afraid those possessions were infectious which explains their “therapy”.
Affected people were simply locked up together with the criminals. Those so called, bedlams were far away to guarantee nobody must listen to miserable screams of inmates. To bring them to reason, mentally ill people got tortured and because, at this time it was a fact that they don’t have feelings, they got no food and needed to freeze while standing chained on walls. Some also were convicted as witches and were burnt.
Only at the 17. and 18. century some doctors got back to the old “they aren’t mad, just ill” knowledge.
The first big breakthrough was in the UK at 1760. All that they needed was a famous mentally ill patient to recognize people, like the brutally handled King George II, were just normal people who are also able to feel. After a parliamentary investigation and public interest the treatment in Europe finally got a little bit better, for the first time they got real medical therapy which caused (not surprisingly) much more improvement.
In Paris, the doctor Phillippe Pinel took in 1795 a mental institution and released about 8.000 patients from their chains. His biggest achievement was to see and treat them all as real ill people.
The German Johann Christian Teil is famous as being the founder of modern psychiatry. He was the first one who used the term “psychiatry” and established ergotherapy and music therapy in 1808. Still common were straitjackets and cold bathes to guarantee the cooperation of the patients.
John Conolly was the first one who did not use violence since 1839. He also taught his staff how to treat mentally ill people with care.
Since the 19th century doctors began to analyze the physical causes. “Madhouses” were now not holding houses but created as mental asylums.
At the end of the 19th century hysteria with the symptoms like screaming, was modern. The reason for this illness is expected to be a consequence of a shocking past. Doctors tried to heal the patients with hypnosis. Sigmund Freud also learned everything about hypnosis while being in Paris. He published a book about it and writes about the hypnosis therapy. His solution and cause of mental illnesses is according to him, the key of the soul: the dream. Dreams are made of unfulfilled wishes and the reason for mental illnesses is a lack of sex. Out of this knowledge he created a new form of therapy: “psychoanalysis”. This was the beginning of a new area of psychotherapy.
As good as it sounds, all this knowledge got lost again. At the beginning of the first world war every clinical improvement and those new forms of therapy and correction disappeared. Mentally ill people only exist now, got diagnosed with madness and to make room for “more important patients who had a purpose of healing” they got no food.
New therapy-methods like electronical shocks were created while all of the doctors discussed if therapy for mental illnesses makes sense at all. The Nazis took this discussion seriously and implemented to destroy worthless life. Between 1940- 1941 more than 70.000 mentally ill people and disabled ones were murdered. Doctors and nurses for example put deadly injections and watched them die.
Until the end of the 70s no one, not even the government cared, they simply looked away.
The first changes and improvement finally happened cause of the 68s movement (this was an organization which wanted democracy). Outpatient treatment, psychiatric services and resident therapists developed.
Today everything Freud said is disputed, new therapy was discovered like the creative therapy or the behavioral therapy. It is important to point out that there still are horrible ways to deal with mentally ill patients around the world especially in non-democratically and civilized regions. Even from our much more improved society you will always hear some horror stories. In conclusion in the 21st century not everything is perfect and as much improved as possible. At the same time, it is sure to say we mentally ill patients, got a better chance to heal than ever.
The improvement and research won’t stop and our knowledge about mental health will develop. Support and understanding for mentally ill people by not only the society but the government too, is getting bigger day by day.
To look back at this history, it finally makes a bit more sense why mental health is a critical topic. The way to today was long and difficult, horrible and without any reason disgusting. It took a long time for humans to finally get to the point where mental illnesses are what they are, illnesses. In my opinion there sill is a lack of understanding and possible help and therapy. There is so much more to work on and to improve. But at least, to look at the bright side, now days we reached the best point of understanding that ever existed.