On This Day … 15 May [2022]

Events

  • 1817 – Opening of the first private mental health hospital in the United States, the Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason (now Friends Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

Friends Hospital (Philadelphia)

Friends Hospital is a psychiatric hospital located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.

Founded in 1813 by Quakers as The Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason, the institution was later renamed the Frankford Asylum for the Insane. It was the first private mental hospital in the nation, and is the oldest such institution with a continuous history of operation. Its campus, which dates to its founding, is a National Historic Landmark.

Friends Hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organisations and licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

What is Friends Hospital (Philadelphia)?

Introduction

Friends Hospital is a psychiatric hospital located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.

Founded in 1813 by Quakers as The Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason, the institution was later renamed the Frankford Asylum for the Insane. It was the first private mental hospital in the nation, and is the oldest such institution with a continuous history of operation. Its campus, which dates to its founding, is a National Historic Landmark.

Friends Hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organisations and licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Brief History

The Quakers established Friends Hospital in 1813, drawing on a belief that all persons could live a “moral, ordered existence if treated with kindness, dignity, and respect”, despite disabilities. The influential minister Thomas Scattergood decried what he considered the harsh conditions faced by patients in mental asylums; Scattergood instead called for the “moral treatment” of patients. This model served as an inspiration for the establishment of the Friends Asylum for Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason; it was the nation’s first privately run psychiatric hospital.

Mission

The 1813 mission statement of the hospital was “To provide for the suitable accommodation of persons who are or may be deprived of the use of their reason, and the maintenance of an asylum for their reception, which is intended to furnish, besides requisite medical aid, such tender, sympathetic attention as may soothe their agitated minds, and under the Divine Blessing, facilitate their recovery.”

Services

Adolescent Programmes

  • A dedicated treatment program specifically design for young people 13-17 years of age.
  • 24 bed acute care psychiatric unit with separate wings for male and female patients (12 for males, 12 for females).
  • Private bedrooms with unit access to an enclosed outside courtyard.
  • Treatment of all major psychiatric disorders and co-occurring substance issues.
  • Holistic and patient centred approach, including regular group and family therapy, as well as individual therapy when indicated.
  • Individualised treatment, wellness and safety and discharge plans.
  • Academic support including an educational assessment and daily education instruction provide by a certified teacher.

Adult Programmes

  • Dedicated Adult Units offering a rand of programming design for the varied needs of patients ages 18 to 65.
  • Private patient bedrooms with unit access to an enclosed outside courtyard.
  • Treatment for all major psychiatric disorders and co-occurring substance issues.
  • Recovery-oriented approach emphasizing each patient’s own support systems, strength and community connections in collaboration in professional treatment.
  • Individualised treatment, wellness, and safety, and discharge plans.

Older Adult Programmes

  • A dedicated treatment programme specifically design for older adults.
  • Private patient bedrooms with unit access to an enclosed outside courtyard.
  • Treatment for all major psychiatric disorders, including behavioural symptoms related to dementia.
  • Treatment for co-occurring substance issues.
  • Holistic and patient centred approach, including regular group and family therapy, as well as individual therapy when indicated.
  • Age sensitive, individualised treatment, wellness, and safety, and discharge plans.

Greystone Programme at Friends Hospital Located on the grounds of the Friends Hospital, the Greystone Programme is a long-term community residence designed to meet the special needs for individuals with severe and persistent mental illnesses. Consisting of two houses, Greystone House and Hillside House, the program is dedicated to helping its residents move toward recovery, greater independence, and an enhanced quality of life. The Greystone Program emphasizes the development of skills of daily living, socialisation, purposeful activity, and recovery enables residents to realize their dignity, worth and highest individual potential. Many residents have chosen to make the Greystone Programme their permanent home while other will successfully transition to a less structured environment.

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Who was Philippe Pinel?

Introduction

Philippe Pinel (20 April 1745 to 25 October 1826) was a French physician, precursor of psychiatry and incidentally a zoologist.

He was instrumental in the development of a more humane psychological approach to the custody and care of psychiatric patients, referred to today as moral therapy. He worked for the abolition of the shackling of mental patients by chains and, more generally, for the humanisation of their treatment. He also made notable contributions to the classification of mental disorders and has been described by some as “the father of modern psychiatry”.

After the French Revolution, Dr. Pinel changed the way we look at the crazy (or “aliénés”, “alienated” in English) by claiming that they can be understood and cured. An 1809 description of a case that Pinel recorded in the second edition of his textbook on insanity is regarded by some as the earliest evidence for the existence of the form of mental disorder later known as dementia praecox or schizophrenia, although Emil Kraepelin is generally accredited with its first conceptualisation.

“Father of modern psychiatry”, he was credited with the first classification of mental illnesses. He had a great influence on psychiatry and the treatment of the alienated in Europe and the United States.

Early Life

Pinel was born in Jonquières, the South of France, in the modern department of Tarn. He was the son and nephew of physicians. After receiving a degree from the faculty of medicine in Toulouse, he studied an additional four years at the Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier. He arrived in Paris in 1778.

He spent fifteen years earning his living as a writer, translator, and editor because the restrictive regulations of the old regime prevented him from practicing medicine in Paris. The faculty did not recognize a degree from a provincial university like Toulouse. He failed twice in a competition which would have awarded him funds to continue his studies. In the second competition, the jury stressed his ‘painful’ mediocrity in all areas of medical knowledge, an assessment seemingly so grossly incompatible with his later intellectual accomplishments that political motives have been suggested. Discouraged, Pinel considered emigrating to America. In 1784 he became editor of the medical journal the Gazette de santé, a four-page weekly. He was also known among natural scientists as a regular contributor to the Journal de physique. He studied mathematics, translated medical works into French, and undertook botanical expeditions.

At about this time he began to develop an intense interest in the study of mental illness. The incentive was a personal one. A friend had developed a ‘nervous melancholy’ that had ‘degenerated into mania’ and resulted in suicide. What Pinel regarded as an unnecessary tragedy due to gross mismanagement seems to have haunted him. It led him to seek employment at one of the best-known private sanatoria for the treatment of insanity in Paris. He remained there for five years prior to the Revolution, gathering observations on insanity and beginning to formulate his views on its nature and treatment.

Pinel was an Ideologue, a disciple of the abbé de Condillac. He was also a clinician who believed that medical truth was derived from clinical experience. Hippocrates was his model.

During the 1780s, Pinel was invited to join the salon of Madame Helvétius. He was in sympathy with the French Revolution. After the revolution, friends he had met at Madame Helvétius’ salon came to power. In August 1793 Pinel was appointed “physician of the infirmeries” at Bicêtre Hospital. At the time it housed about four thousand imprisoned men – criminals, petty offenders, syphilitics, pensioners and about two hundred mental patients. Pinel’s patrons hoped that his appointment would lead to therapeutic initiatives. His experience at the private sanatoria made him a good candidate for the job.

The Bicêtre and Salpêtrière

Soon after his appointment to Bicêtre Hospital, Pinel became interested in the seventh ward where 200 mentally ill men were housed. He asked for a report on these inmates. A few days later, he received a table with comments from the “governor” Jean-Baptiste Pussin. In the 1770s Pussin had been successfully treated for scrofula at Bicêtre; and, following a familiar pattern, he was eventually recruited, along with his wife, Marguerite Jubline, on to the staff of the hospice.

Appreciating Pussin’s outstanding talent, Pinel virtually apprenticed himself to that unschooled but experienced custodian of the insane. His purpose in doing this was to “enrich the medical theory of mental illness with all the insights that the empirical approach affords”. What he observed was a strict nonviolent, nonmedical management of mental patients that came to be called moral treatment or moral management, though psychological might be a more accurate term.

Although Pinel always gave Pussin the credit he deserved, a legend grew up about Pinel single-handedly liberating the insane from their chains at Bicetre. This legend has been commemorated in paintings and prints, and has lived on for 200 years and is repeated in textbooks. In fact, it was Pussin who removed the iron shackles (but sometimes using straitjackets) at Bicêtre in 1797, after Pinel had left for the Salpêtrière. Pinel did remove the chains from patients at the Salpêtrière three years later, after Pussin joined him there. There is some suggestion that the Bicetre myth was actually deliberately fabricated by Pinel’s son, Dr Scipion Pinel, along with Pinel’s foremost pupil, Dr Esquirol. The argument is that they were ‘solidists’, which meant then something akin to biological psychiatry with a focus on brain disease, and were embarrassed by Pinel’s focus on psychological processes. In addition, unlike Philippe, they were both royalists.

While at Bicêtre, Pinel did away with bleeding, purging, and blistering in favour of a therapy that involved close contact with and careful observation of patients. Pinel visited each patient, often several times a day, and took careful notes over two years. He engaged them in lengthy conversations. His objective was to assemble a detailed case history and a natural history of the patient’s illness.

In 1795, Pinel became chief physician of the Hospice de la Salpêtrière, a post that he retained for the rest of his life. The Salpêtrière was, at the time, like a large village, with seven thousand elderly indigent and ailing women, an entrenched bureaucracy, a teeming market and huge infirmaries. Pinel missed Pussin and in 1802 secured his transfer to the Salpêtrière. It has also been noted that a Catholic nursing order actually undertook most of the day to day care and understanding of the patients at Salpêtrière, and there were sometimes power struggles between Pinel and the nurses.

Pinel created an inoculation clinic in his service at the Salpêtrière in 1799, and the first vaccination in Paris was given there in April 1800.

In 1795 Pinel had also been appointed as a professor of medical pathology, a chair that he held for twenty years. He was briefly dismissed from this position in 1822, with ten other professors, suspected of political liberalism, but reinstated as an honorary professor shortly thereafter.

A statue in honour of Pinel now stands outside the Salpêtrière.

Publications

In 1794 Pinel made public his essay ‘Memoir on Madness’, recently called a fundamental text of modern psychiatry. In it Pinel makes the case for the careful psychological study of individuals over time, points out that insanity is not always continuous, and calls for more humanitarian asylum practices.

In 1798 Pinel published an authoritative classification of diseases in his Nosographie philosophique ou méthode de l’analyse appliquée à la médecine. Although he is properly considered one of the founders of psychiatry, this book also establishes him as the last great nosologist of the eighteenth century. While the Nosographie appears completely dated today, it was so popular in its time that it went through six editions between its initial publication and 1818. Pinel based his nosology on ideas of William Cullen, employing the same biologically-inspired terminology of ‘genera’ and ‘species’ of disorder. Pinel’s classification of mental disorder simplified Cullen’s ‘neuroses’ down to four basic types of mental disorder: melancholia, mania (insanity), dementia, and idiotism. Later editions added forms of ‘partial insanity’ where only that of feelings which seem to be affected rather than reasoning ability.

The first mental derangement is called melancholia. The symptoms are described as “taciturnity, a thoughtful pensive air, gloomy suspicions, and a love of solitude.” It is noted that Tiberius and Louis XI were subjected to this temperament. Louis was characterised by the imbalance between the state of bitterness and passion, gloom, love of solitude, and the embarrassment of artistic talents. However, Louis and Tiberius were similar in that they both were deceitful and planned a delusional trip to military sites. Eventually both were exiled, one to the Isle of Rhodes and the other to a province of Belgium. People with melancholia are often immersed with one idea that their whole attention is fixated on. On one hand they stay reserved for many years, withholding friendships and affection while on the other, there are some who make reasonable judgment and overcome the gloomy state.  Melancholia can also express itself in polar opposite forms. The first is distinguished by an exalted sense of self-importance and unrealistic expectations such as attaining riches and power. The second form is marked by deep despair and great depression.  Overall individuals with melancholia generally do not display acts of violence, though they may find it wildly fanciful. Depression and anxiety occurs habitually as well as frequent moroseness of character.  Pinel remarks that melancholia can be explained by drunkenness, abnormalities in the structure of the skull, trauma in the skull, conditions of the skin, various psychological causes such as household disasters and religious extremism, and in women, menstruation and menopause. 

The second mental derangement is called mania without delirium. It is described as madness independent of a disorder that impairs the intellectual faculties. The symptoms are described as perverse and disobedient.  An instance where this type of species of mental derangement occurs where a mechanic, who was confined at the Asylum de Bicetre, experienced violent outbursts of maniacal fury. The paroxysms consisted of a burning sensation located in the abdominal area that was accompanied by constipation and thirst. The symptom spread to the chest, neck, and face area. When it reached the temples, the pulsation of the arteries increased in those areas. The brain was affected to some length but nonetheless, the patient was able to reason and cohere to his ideas. One time the mechanic experienced furious paroxysm at his own house where he warned his wife to flee to avoid death. He also experienced the same periodical fury at the asylum where he plotted against the governor.  The specific character of mania without delirium is that it can either be perpetual or sporadic. However, there was no reasonable change in the cognitive functions of the brain; only pervasive thoughts of fury and a blind tendency to acts of violence.

The third mental derangement is called mania with delirium. It is mainly characterised by indulgence and fury, and affects cognitive functions. Sometimes it may be distinguished by a carefree, gay humour that can venture off path in incoherent and absurd suggestions. Other times it can be distinguished by prideful and imaginary claims to grandeur. Prisoners of this species are highly delusional. For example, they would proclaim having fought an important battle, or witness the prophet Mohammad conjuring wrath in the name of the Almighty. Some declaim ceaselessly with no evidence of things seen or heard while others saw illusions of objects in various forms and colours. Delirium sometimes persists with some degree of frenzied uproar for a period of years, but it can also be constant and the paroxysm of fury repeat at different intervals. The specific character of mania with delirium is the same as mania without delirium in the sense that it can either be continued or cyclical with regular or irregular paroxysms. It is marked by strong nervous excitement, accompanied by a deficit of one or more of the functions of the cognitive abilities with feelings of liveliness, depression or fury.

The fourth mental derangement is called dementia, or otherwise known as the abolition of thinking. The characteristics include thoughtlessness, extreme incorrectness, and wild abnormalities. For instance, a man who had been educated on the ancient nobility was marching on about the beginning of the revolution. He moved restlessly about the house, talking endlessly and shouting passionately on insignificant reasons. Dementia is usually accompanied by raging and rebellious movement, by a quick succession of ideas formed in the mind, and by passionate feelings that are felt and forgotten without attributing it to objects.  Those who are in captive of dementia have lost their memory, even those attributed to their loved ones. Their only memory consists of those in the past. They forget instantaneously things in the present – seen heard or done. Many are irrational because the ideas do not flow coherently.  The characteristic properties of dementia are that there is no judgment value and the ideas are spontaneous with no connection.  The specific character of dementia contains a rapid progression or continual succession of isolated ideas, forgetfulness of previous condition, repetitive acts of exaggeration, decreased responsiveness to external influence, and complete lack of judgement.

The fifth and last mental derangement is called idiotism, or otherwise known as “obliteration of the intellectual faculties and affections.”  This disorder is derived from a variety of causes, such as extravagant and debilitating delight, alcohol abuse, deep sorrow, diligent study, aggressive blows to the head, tumours in the brain, and loss of consciousness due to blockage in vein or artery. Idiotism embodies a variety of forms. One such form is called Cretinism, which is a kind of idiotism that is relative to personal abnormalities. It is well known in the Valais and in parts of Switzerland.   Most people who belong in this group are either deficient in speech or limited to the inarticulate utterances of sounds. Their expressions are emotionless, senses are dazed and motions are mechanical. Idiots also constitute the largest number of patients at hospitals. Individuals who have acute responsiveness can experience a violent shock to the extreme that all the activities of the brain can either be arrested in an action or eradicated completely. Unexpected happiness and exaggerated fear may likely occur as a result of a violent shock.  As mentioned previously, idiotism is the most common among hospital patients and is incurable. At the Bicetre asylum, these patients constitute one fourth of the entire population. Many die after a few days of arrival, having been reduced to states of stupor and weakness. However, some who recover with the progressive regeneration of their strength also regain their intellectual capabilities. Many of the young people that have remained in the state of idiotism for several months or years are attacked by a spasm of active mania between twenty and thirty days.  The specific character of idiotism includes partial or complete extermination of the intellect and affections, apathy, disconnected, inarticulate sounds or impairment of speech, and nonsensical outbursts of passion.

In his book Traité médico-philosophique sur l’aliénation mentale; ou la manie, published in 1801, Pinel discusses his psychologically oriented approach. This book was translated into English by D.D. Davis as a Treatise on Insanity in 1806, although Davis substituted Pinel’s introduction for his own, leaving out among other things Pinel’s strong praise for Alexander Crichton. Pinel’s book had an enormous influence on both French and Anglo-American psychiatrists during the nineteenth century. He meant by alienation that the patient feels like a stranger (alienus) to the world of the ‘sane’. A sympathetic therapist living in that world might be able to journey into the patient’s experience, understand the ‘alienated’, their language, and possibly lead them back into society.

In 1802 Pinel published La Médecine Clinique which was based on his experiences at the Salpêtrière and in which he extended his previous book on classification and disease.

Pinel was elected to the Académie des Sciences in 1804 and was a member of the Académie de Médecine from its founding in 1820. He died in Paris on 25 October 1826.

Clinical Approach

Psychological Understanding

The central and ubiquitous theme of Pinel’s approach to aetiology (causation) and treatment was “moral,” meaning the emotional or the psychological not ethical. He observed and documented the subtleties and nuances of human experience and behaviour, conceiving of people as social animals with imagination.

Pinel noted, for example, that:

“being held in esteem, having honor, dignity, wealth, fame, which though they may be factitious, always distressing and rarely fully satisfied, often give way to the overturning of reason”.

He spoke of avarice, pride, friendship, bigotry, the desire for reputation, for conquest, and vanity. He noted that a state of love could turn to fury and desperation, and that sudden severe reversals in life, such as “from the pleasure of success to an overwhelming idea of failure, from a dignified state—or the belief that one occupies one—to a state of disgrace and being forgotten” can cause mania or ‘mental alienation’. He identified other predisposing psychosocial factors such as an unhappy love affair, domestic grief, devotion to a cause carried to the point of fanaticism, religious fear, the events of the revolution, violent and unhappy passions, exalted ambitions of glory, financial reverses, religious ecstasy, and outbursts of patriotic fervour.

Treatments

Pinel developed specific practical techniques, rather than general concepts and assumptions. He engaged in therapeutic conversations to dissuade patients from delusions. He offered benevolent support and encouragement, although patients who persistently resisted or caused trouble might be threatened with incarceration or punishment if they were not able to control themselves.

Pinel argued that psychological intervention must be tailored to each individual rather than be based solely on the diagnostic category, and that it must be grounded in an understanding of the person’s own perspective and history. He noted that “the treatment of insanity (l’aliénation mentale) without considering the differentiating characteristics of the patients [la distinction des espèces] has been at times superfluous, rarely useful, and often harmful”, describing the partial or complete failures of some psychological approaches, as well as the harm that the usual cruel and harsh treatments caused to patients before they came to his hospital. He saw improvement as often resulting from natural forces within the patient, an improvement that treatment could at best facilitate and at worst interfere with.

Pinel’s approach to medical treatments has been described as ambiguous, complex, and ambivalent. He insisted that psychological techniques should always be tried first, for example:

“even where a violent and destructive maniac could be calmed by a single dose of an antispasmodic [he referred to opium], observation teaches that in a great number of cases, one can obtain a sure and permanent cure by the sole method of expectation, leaving the insane man to his tumultuous excitement… …and [furthermore] seeing, again and again, the unexpected resources of nature left to itself or wisely guided, has rendered me more and more cautious with regard to the use of medications, which I no longer employ—except when the insufficiencies of psychological means have been proven.”

For those cases regarded as psychologically incurable, Pinel would employ baths, showers, opium, camphor and other antispasmodics, as well as vesicants, cauterisation, and bloodletting in certain limited cases only. He also recommended the use of laxatives for the prevention of nervous excitement and relapse.

Pinel often traced mental states to physiological states of the body, and in fact could be said to have practiced psychosomatic medicine. In general, Pinel traced organic causes to the gastrointestinal system and peripheral nervous system more often than to brain dysfunction. This was consistent with his rarely finding gross brain pathology in his post-mortem examinations of psychiatric patients, and his view that such findings that were reported could be correlational rather than causative

Management

Pinel was concerned with a balance between control by authority and individual liberty. He believed in “the art of subjugating and taming the insane” and the effectiveness of “a type of apparatus of fear, of firm and consistent opposition to their dominating and stubbornly held ideas”, but that it must be proportional and motivated only by a desire to keep order and to bring people back to themselves. The straitjacket and a period of seclusion were the only sanctioned punishments. Based on his observations, he believed that those who were considered most dangerous and carried away by their ideas had often been made so by the blows and bad treatment they had received, and that it could be ameliorated by providing space, kindness, consolation, hope, and humour.

Because of the dangers and frustrations that attendants experienced in their work, Pinel put great emphasis on the selection and supervision of attendants in order to establish a custodial setting dedicated to norms of constraint and liberty that would facilitate psychological work. He recommended that recovered patients be employed, arguing that “They are the ones who are most likely to refrain from all inhumane treatment, who will not strike even in retaliation, who can stand up to pleading, menaces, repetitive complaining, etc. and retain their inflexible firmness.” Pinel also emphasized the necessity for leadership that was “thoughtful, philanthropic, courageous, physically imposing, and inventive in the development of manoeuvres or tactics to distract, mollify, and impress” and “devoted to the concept of order without violence”, so that patients are “led most often with kindness, but always with an inflexible firmness.” He noted that his ex-patient and superintendent Pussin had showed him the way in this regard, and had also often been better placed to work with patients and develop techniques due to his greater experience and detailed knowledge of the patients as individuals.

Moral Judgements

Pinel generally expressed warm feelings and respect for his patients, as exemplified by: “I cannot but give enthusiastic witness to their moral qualities. Never, except in romances, have I seen spouses more worthy to be cherished, more tender fathers, passionate lovers, purer or more magnanimous patriots, than I have seen in hospitals for the insane, in their intervals of reasonableness and calm; a man of sensibility may go there any day and take pleasure in scenes of compassion and tenderness”. He argued that otherwise positive character traits could cause a person to be vulnerable to the distressing vicissitudes of life, for example “those persons endowed with a warmth of imagination and a depth of sensitivity, who are capable of experiencing powerful and intense emotions, [since it is they] who are most predisposed to mania”.

Pinel distanced himself from religious views, and in fact considered that excessive religiosity could be harmful.

However, he sometimes took a moral stance himself as to what he considered to be mentally healthy and socially appropriate. Moreover, he sometimes showed a condemnatory tone toward what he considered personal failings or vice, for example noting in 1809: “On one side one sees families which thrive over a course of many years, in the bosom of order and concord, on the other one sees many others, especially in the lower social classes, who offend the eye with the repulsive picture of debauchery, arguments, and shameful distress!”. He goes on to describe this as the most prolific source of alienation needing treatment, adding that while some such examples were a credit to the human race many others are “a disgrace to humanity!”

Influence

Pinel is generally seen as the physician who more than any other transformed the concept of ‘the mad’ into that of patients needing care and understanding, establishing a field that would eventually be called psychiatry. His legacy included improvement of asylum conditions; broadly psychosocial (incl. milieu) therapeutic approaches; history-taking; nosography (the science of the description of syndromes); broadly-numerical assessments of courses of illness and treatment responses; and a record of clinical teaching.

Pinel’s actions took place in the context of the Enlightenment, and a number of others were also reforming asylums along humanitarian lines. For example, Vincenzo Chiarugi, in the 1780s in Italy, removed metal chains from patients but did not enjoy the same renown bestowed on the more explicitly humanitarian Pinel who was so visible from late 18th century revolutionary France. In France, Joseph D’Aquin in Chambéry permitted patients to move about freely and published a book in 1791 urging humanitarian reforms, dedicating the second edition in 1804 to Pinel. The movement as a whole become known as moral treatment or moral management, and influenced asylum development and psychological approaches throughout the Western world.

Pinel’s most important contribution may have been the observation and conviction that there could be sanity and rationality even in cases that seemed on the surface impossible to understand, and that this could appear for periods in response to surrounding events (and not just because of such things as the phase of the moon, a still common assumption and the origin of the term lunatic). The influential philosopher Hegel praised Pinel for this approach.

The right psychical treatment therefore keeps in view the truth that insanity is not an abstract loss of reason (neither in the point of intelligence nor of will and its responsibility), but only derangement, only a contradiction in a still subsisting reason; – just as physical disease is not an abstract, i.e. mere and total, loss of health (if it were that, it would be death), but a contradiction in it. This humane treatment, no less benevolent than reasonable (the services of Pinel towards which deserve the highest acknowledgement), presupposes the patient’s rationality, and in that assumption has the sound basis for dealing with him on this side – just as in the case of bodily disease the physician bases his treatment on the vitality which as such still contains health.

Pinel also started a trend for diagnosing forms of insanity that seemed to occur ‘without delerium’ (confusion, delusions or hallucinations). Pinel called this Manie sans délire, folie raisonnante or folie lucide raisonnante. He described cases who seemed to be overwhelmed by instinctive furious passions but still seemed sane. This was influential in leading to the concept of moral insanity, which became an accepted diagnosis through the second half of the 19th century. Pinel’s main psychiatric heir, Esquirol, built on Pinel’s work and popularised various concepts of monomania.

However, Pinel was also criticised and rejected in some quarters. A new generation favoured pathological anatomy, seeking to locate mental disorders in brain lesions. Pinel undertook comparisons of skull sizes, and considered possible physiological substrates, but he was criticised for his emphasis on psychology and the social environment. Opponents were bolstered by the discovery of tertiary syphilis as the cause of some mental disorder. Pinel’s humanitarian achievements were emphasized and mythologised instead.

With increasing industrialisation, asylums generally became overcrowded, misused, isolated and run-down. The moral treatment principles were often neglected along with the patients. There was recurrent debate over the use of psychological-social oppression even if some physical forces were removed. By the mid-19th century in England, the Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society was proclaiming the moral treatment approach was achieved “by mildness and coaxing, and by solitary confinement”, treating people like children without rights to make their own decisions.

Similarly in the mid-20th century, Foucault’s influential book, Madness and Civilisation: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, also known as History of Madness, focused on Pinel, along with Tuke, as the driving force behind a shift from physical to mental oppression. Foucault argued that the approach simply meant that patients were ignored and verbally isolated, and were worse off than before. They were made to see madness in others and then in themselves until they felt guilt and remorse. The doctor, despite his lack of medical knowledge about the underlying processes, had all powers of authority, and defined insanity. Foucault also suggested that a focus on the rights of patients at Bicetre was partly due to revolutionary concerns that it housed and chained victims of arbitrary or political power, or alternatively that it might be enabling refuge for anti-revolutionary suspects, as well as just ‘the mad’.

Scull argues that the “…manipulations and ambiguous ‘kindness’ of Tuke and Pinel…” may nevertheless have been preferable to the harsh coercion and physical “treatments” of previous generations, though he does recognise its “…less benevolent aspects and its latent potential … for deterioration into a repressive form….” Some have criticised the process of deinstitutionalisation that took place in the 20th century and called for a return to Pinel’s approach, so as not to underestimate the needs that mentally ill people might have for protection and care.

What is the Maudsley Hospital?

Introduction

The Maudsley Hospital is a British psychiatric hospital in south London.

The Maudsley is the largest mental health training institution in the UK. It is part of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and works in partnership with the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. The hospital was one of the originating institutions in producing the Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines. It is part of the King’s Health Partners academic health science centre and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health.

Brief History

Early History

The Maudsley story dates from 1907, when once leading Victorian psychiatrist Henry Maudsley offered London County Council £30,000 (apparently earned from lucrative private practice in the West End) to help found a new mental hospital that would be exclusively for early and acute cases rather than chronic cases, have an out-patients’ clinic and provide for teaching and research. Maudsley’s associate Frederick Walker Mott had proposed the original idea and he conducted the negotiations, with Maudsley remaining anonymous until the offer was accepted. Mott, a neuropathologist, had been influenced by a visit to Emil Kraepelin’s psychiatric clinic with attached postgraduate teaching facilities in Munich, Germany. The Council agreed to contribute half the building costs – eventually rising to £70,000 – and then covered the running costs which were almost twice as high per bed as the large asylums. The hospital also incorporated the Central Pathological Laboratory, transferred from Claybury Hospital, run by Mott. Construction of the hospital was completed in 1915. An Act of Parliament had to be obtained, that year, to allow the institution to accept voluntary patients without needing to certify them as insane.

However, before it could open, the building was requisitioned to treat war veterans. After the war it was returned to the control of London County Council and it finally opened as the Maudsley Hospital in February 1923. The first superintendent was psychiatrist Edward Mapother, while Frederick Golla took over the running of the pathology lab from Mott. Both were more sceptical of the Kraepelinian categories of diagnosis, and took a more pragmatic and eclectic view on causation and treatment. Psychiatrist Mary Barkas worked here between 1923 and 1927 in the children’s department established by William Dawson.

In the interwar period the Maudsley Hospital engaged in widespread experimentation with animal hormones, both in small doses to rectify supposed deficits and in overdoses as a shock therapy. Numerous psychoactive drugs and procedures were tried out, in what has been described as ‘unconstrained experimentation’. One of those involved, as a trainee and then junior doctor, was the controversial William Sargant. The hospital’s nursing staff comprised a matron, assistant matron, six sisters and 19 staff nurses with at least three years general hospital training, supported by 23 probationers and 12 male nurses. It had a good reputation for training nurses and some applicants even travelled overseas to train there. A report (held at Bethlem’s Archives & Museum) from a nurse who trained at the Maudsley shows some of the work of a new trainee: “Apart from observation and simple treatment, nurses are trained in special investigations and therapy. They carry out many of the routine psychometric tests, help as technicians in the ward laboratories, and are instructors in occupational therapy”.

The Maudsley Hospital Medical School was established in 1924 and eventually became a well-respected teaching centre. In 1932, Mapother described it as “the main postgraduate school of mental medicine in England.” The Maudsley Hospital had initially struggled to secure funding from the Medical Research Council, and, to undertake further research and develop the Medical School, but a substantial grant was obtained in 1938 from American charity the Rockefeller Foundation. Originally, there was no provision for the treatment of children and the rapid growth in this patient population was unforeseen. A child guidance clinic was set up under the directorship of Dr William Moodie, the deputy medical superintendent, in 1928. The late 1920s and 1930s saw a rapid growth in the number of patients treated: this growth led to an ongoing building programme including a secure unit, completed in 1931, and an out-patients department, completed in 1933.

Links with Eugenic Research

Both Mapother and then deputy Aubrey Lewis supported involuntary eugenic sterilisation, unequivocally recommending it to the Brock Committee in 1932. Lewis was a member of the Eugenics Society and a 1934 chapter he authored is “remarkable for its total admiration for the German work and workers”. With the spread of National Socialist (Nazi) laws in Germany from 1933, however, they decried the Nazi conflation of therapy and punishment, a move partly attributed to political and funding expediency. The Maudsley maintained its links with Germany, taking on both pro-Nazis and Jewish emigres through fellowships provided by the Commonwealth Fund and, after 1935, large scale funds from the American Rockefeller Foundation. Eliot Slater continued to visit Munich through the 1930s and contributed to academic festivities honouring Nazi eugenicist Ernst Rudin. During this time, Maudsley psychiatry developed a distinctive combination of practical experimentation and intellectual scepticism. Influential psychiatrist Aubrey Lewis became clinical director of the Maudsley in 1936.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, and with the threat of air-raids, the Maudsley Hospital closed and staff dispersed to two locations: a temporary hospital at Mill Hill School in north London and Belmont Hospital in Sutton, Surrey. Staff returned to the Maudsley site in 1945 and three years later the Maudsley joined up with the Bethlem Royal Hospital to become partners in the newly established National Health Service (NHS).

Post-War

In the 1960s a group from the Maudsley Hospital attacked the use of lithium for mood disorders. The head, Aubrey Lewis, called it “dangerous nonsense”, and colleagues published that it was therapeutically ineffective. Their objections have recently been described as ‘poorly grounded’ and having steered practitioners away from a beneficial agent. In 1999, the Maudsley Hospital became part of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (“SLaM”), along with the Bethlem Royal Hospital.

Services

The trust manages one of the UK’s few biomedical research centres specialising in mental health. The centre, managed in partnership with the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, is based on the Maudsley Hospital campus and funded by the NIHR.

Media

In 2013 South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (‘SLaM’) took part in a Channel 4 observational documentary entitled Bedlam. The final programme, “Breakdown”, focused on older adults, including those admitted to the Older Adults Ward at Maudsley Hospital.

What is Institutional Syndrome?

Introduction

In clinical and abnormal psychology, institutionalisation or institutional syndrome refers to deficits or disabilities in social and life skills, which develop after a person has spent a long period living in psychiatric hospitals, prisons or other remote institutions.

In other words, individuals in institutions may be deprived (whether unintentionally or not) of independence and of responsibility, to the point that once they return to “outside life” they are often unable to manage many of its demands; it has also been argued that institutionalised individuals become psychologically more prone to mental health problems.

The term institutionalisation can also be used to describe the process of committing an individual to a mental hospital or prison, or to describe institutional syndrome; thus the phrase “X is institutionalised” may mean either that X has been placed in an institution or that X is suffering the psychological effects of having been in an institution for an extended period of time.

Background

In Europe and North America, the trend of putting the mentally ill into mental hospitals began as early as the 17th century, and hospitals often focused more on “restraining” or controlling inmates than on curing them, although hospital conditions improved somewhat with movements for human treatment, such as moral management. By the mid-20th century, overcrowding in institutions, the failure of institutional treatment to cure most mental illnesses, and the advent of drugs such as Thorazine prompted many hospitals to begin discharging patients in large numbers, in the beginning of the deinstitutionalisation movement (the process of gradually moving people from inpatient care in mental hospitals, to outpatient care).

Deinstitutionalisation did not always result in better treatment, however, and in many ways it helped reveal some of the shortcomings of institutional care, as discharged patients were often unable to take care of themselves, and many ended up homeless or in jail. In other words, many of these patients had become “institutionalised” and were unable to adjust to independent living. One of the first studies to address the issue of institutionalisation directly was British psychiatrist Russell Barton’s 1959 book Institutional Neurosis, which claimed that many symptoms of mental illness (specifically, psychosis) were not physical brain defects as once thought, but were consequences of institutions’ “stripping” (a term probably first used in this context by Erving Goffman) away the “psychological crutches” of their patients.

Since the middle of the 20th century, the problem of institutionalisation has been one of the motivating factors for the increasing popularity of deinstitutionalisation and the growth of community mental health services, since some mental healthcare providers believe that institutional care may create as many problems as it solves.

Romanian children who suffered from severe neglect at a young age were adopted by families. Research reveals that the post-institutional syndrome occurring in these children gave rise to symptoms of autistic behaviour. Studies done on eight Romanian adoptees living in the Netherlands revealed that about one third of the children exhibited behavioural and communication problems resembling that of autism.

Issues for Discharged Patients

Individuals who suffer from institutional syndrome can face several kinds of difficulties upon returning to the community. The lack of independence and responsibility for patients within institutions, along with the ‘depressing’ and ‘dehumanising’ environment, can make it difficult for patients to live and work independently. Furthermore, the experience of being in an institution may often have exacerbated individuals’ illness: proponents of labelling theory claim that individuals who are socially “labelled” as mentally ill suffer stigmatisation and alienation that lead to psychological damage and a lessening of self-esteem, and thus that being placed in a mental health institution can actually cause individuals to become more mentally ill.

Stacey Dooley: Back on the Psych Ward (2021)

Introduction

Stacey Dooley returns to Springfield Hospital to work with the team again, looking after patients over six months as they battle through the pandemic.

Refer to Stacey Dooley: On the Psych Ward (2020).

Outline

Mental health across society has worsened since the pandemic began. Stacey Dooley returns to Springfield Hospital, and over six months, including the second nationwide lockdown, works with the team to experience first-hand how the pandemic is impacting patients in crisis. Stacey assists staff as they treat a wide range of mental health conditions and takes part in the tough decisions necessary to keep patients safe.

Stacey meets Coral, who is brought into Springfield by the police one night after attempting to take her life. Coral tells Stacey and the team about her long-running battle with anxiety and depression, which she attempts to self-medicate by drinking alcohol.

The pandemic has seen a rise in suicidal behaviour, especially amongst young people. Stacey meets Oskar, a 20-year-old university student whose struggle with intense suicidal thoughts brings him into the hospital in crisis.

For those with pre-existing mental health conditions, waiting lists and delays to treatment caused by the pandemic are pushing them to breaking point. Suziee is diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder, which causes extreme highs and lows to her moods. But with her therapy now cancelled, she is struggling to cope on her own and turns to the hospital for help.

Stacey also gets to know 21-year-old Ali, an inpatient at Springfield, which is home to the only inpatient unit of its kind in the country for those with severe obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Since childhood, Ali’s OCD rituals have changed from repetitive tapping during stressful exams and blinking to keep her parents safe in the car to extreme bathroom routines. For severe OCD cases like Ali’s, this ward is her last chance at beating this devastating condition, and over the months Stacey sees a dramatic change in Ali’s obsessions.

Production & Filming Details

  • Presenter(s):
    • Stacey Dooley.
  • Director(s):
    • Erica Jenkin.
    • Katie Rice.
  • Producer(s):
    • Gabi Adams … assistant producer.
    • Carla Grande … producer.
    • Erica Jenkin … producer.
    • Katie Rice … producer.
    • Brian Woods … producer.
  • Writer(s):
  • Music:
    • Alexander Parsons.
  • Cinematography:
  • Editor(s):
    • Paddy Garrick.
  • Production:
    • True Vision.
  • Distributor(s):
    • BBC Three (2021) (UK) (video).
  • Release Date: 13 April 2021 (Internet).
  • Running Time: 59 minutes.
  • Rating: TV-MA.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

What is the Eastern State Hospital (Virginia)?

Introduction

Eastern State Hospital is a psychiatric hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia. Built in 1773, it was the first public facility in the present-day United States constructed solely for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. The original building had burned but was reconstructed in 1985.

Francis Fauquier and the Enlightenment

Eastern State Hospital traces its foundation to a speech by Francis Fauquier, Royal Governor of the colony of Virginia, on 06 November 1766. At the House of Burgesses’ first meeting since the Stamp Act and Virginia Resolves, Fauquier primarily discussed the relationship between the Mother Country and these colonists, and expressed optimism for their future. His speech also unexpectedly addressed the mentally ill, as follows:

“It is expedient I should also recommend to your Consideration and Humanity a poor unhappy set of People who are deprived of their senses and wander about the Country, terrifying the Rest of their fellow creatures. A legal Confinement, and proper Provision, ought to be appointed for these miserable Objects, who cannot help themselves. Every civilized Country has an Hospital for these People, where they are confined, maintained and attended by able Physicians, to endeavor to restore to them their lost reason.”

About a year later, on 11 April 1767, Governor Fauquier addressed the same issue before the next House of Burgesses, thus:

“There is a subject which gives me concern, on which I shall particularly address myself to you, as it is your peculiar province to provide means for the subsistence of the poor of any kind. The subject I mean is the case of the poor lunatics. I find on your journals that it was Resolved, That an hospital be erected for the reception of persons who are so unhappy as to be deprived of their reason; And that it was Ordered, that the Committee of Propositions and Grievances do prepare and bring in a bill pursuant to the above resolution. But I do not find that any thing more was done in it. It was a measure which I think could offend no party, and which I was in hopes humanity would have dictated to every man, as soon as he was made acquainted with the call for it. It also concerns me much on another account; for as the case now stands, I am as it were compelled to the daily commission of an illegal act, by confining without my authority, a poor lunatic, who, if set at liberty, would be mischievous to society; and I would choose to be bound by, and observant of, the laws of the country. As I think this is a point of some importance to the ease and comfort of the whole community, as well as a point of charity to the unhappy objects, I shall again recommend it to you at your next meeting; when I hope, after mature reflection, it will be found to be more worth your attention than it has been in this.”

Governor Fauquier’s benevolent and bold expressions did eventually lead to the establishment of the Eastern State Hospital, although he died 03 March 1768, before it was built. His compassion and humanitarian care for those who needed it the most, made it easier for his ideas to be developed and a facility built.

Fauquier’s concern probably rested in Enlightenment principles, which were so widespread throughout the time. The 18th century was a time for rejecting superstitions and religions, and substituting science and logical reasoning. The philosophers David Hume and Voltaire were studying and investigating the worth of human life, which would ultimately alter perceptions of the mentally ill. During this time in London, insane people were viewed and used for as entertainment and comical relief. The Bethlehem Royal Hospital (sometimes called Bedlam) attracted many tourists and even held frequent parades of inmates. Enlightenment attitudes encouraged more sensitivity towards the mentally ill, rather than treating them as outcasts and fools. Some started to believe that being mentally ill was, in fact, an illness of the mind, much like a physical disease or sickness, and that these mental illnesses were also treatable.

Before Governor Fauquier’s speeches, a person who was mentally ill was not diagnosed by a doctor, but rather judged by 12 citizens, much like a jury, to be either a criminal, lunatic or Idiot. Most classified as lunatic were placed in the Public Gaol in Williamsburg. Taxpayers probably appreciated the hospital idea only if they had a family member or close friend who was mentally ill. The only hospital where mentally ill patients were sometimes taken before Eastern State Hospital was built, was the Pennsylvania Hospital, a Quaker institution in Philadelphia. Until a campaign by Benjamin Rush in 1792 to establish a separate treatment wing, mentally ill patients were kept in the basement and out of the way of regular patients who needed medical assistance.

Percival Goodhouse was is thought to be one of the first patients admitted to the Eastern State Hospital after its opening on 12 October 1773.

Civil War and Decline

In 1841, Dr. John Galt was appointed superintendent of the hospital, with roughly 125 patients (then called “inmates”) at the time. Dr. Galt introduced Moral treatment practices, a school of thought which viewed those with mental illness as deserving of respect and dignity rather than punishment for their behaviour. Galt provided his patients with talk therapy and occupational therapy, and argued for in-house research. He decreased the use of physical restraints, even going an entire year without using them, relying instead on calming drugs (including laudanum), and also proposed deinstitutionalizing patients in favour of community-based care, though this proposal was repeatedly rejected. As the head of the hospital, Galt was successful in pressing for admission for enslaved people with mental illness, and taught the enslaved people owned by the hospital to provide talk therapy alongside nurses and aides. Although he claimed to treat patients equally regardless of their race, Galt did not publish racial breakdowns of his patients.

When the Civil War came to Williamsburg, the hospital found itself alternately on one side of the lines and then the other. On 06 May 1862, Union troops captured the asylum. Two weeks later, on 17 or 18 May, Dr. Galt died of an overdose of laudanum, though it is unclear whether this was intentional or accidental. When the hospital was captured, Union soldiers found that the 252 patients had been locked in without food or supplies by the fleeing white employees. Somersett Moore was the only non-African American employee to return following the capture, and he gave the keys to release the patients to the occupying men.

In the following decades, the increasingly crowded hospital saw a regression in methodology as science was increasingly viewed as an ineffective means of dealing with mental illness. During this era of custodial care, the goal became not to cure patients, but to provide a comfortable environment for them, separate from society. On 07 June 1885, the original 1773 hospital burned to the ground due to a fire that had started in the building’s newly added electrical wiring, a consequence of the great expansion of facilities at this time.

Restoration

By 1935 Eastern State Hospital housed some 2,000 patients with no more land for expansion. The restoration of Colonial Williamsburg and development of the Williamsburg Inn resulted in the facility being at the centre of a thriving tourist trade. The hospital’s location and space issues made a move necessary. Between 1937 and 1968, all of Eastern State’s patients were moved to a new facility on the outskirts of Williamsburg, Virginia, where it continues to operate today.

In 1985, the original hospital was reconstructed on its excavated foundations by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Mexico: The Abandoned (2013)

Introduction

Today, over 10% of the global population suffers from mental health problems. Three decades of collaboration between scientists and Buddhist scholars have revealed techniques that allow us to develop our mental well-being and improve the impact we have on our planet.

Part of the Dispatches documentary series (see below).

Outline

Ade Adepitan, Daniel Bogado and former hospital patients gain access to Mexico’s psychiatric institutions to secretly film the horrific and inhumane conditions endured by thousands of men and women.

Dispatches

Dispatches is a British current affairs documentary programme on Channel 4, first broadcast on 30 October 1987. The programme covers issues about British society, politics, health, religion, international current affairs and the environment, and often features a mole inside organisations under journalistic investigation.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
  • Producer(s):
  • Writer(s):
  • Music:
  • Cinematography:
  • Editor(s):
  • Production:
  • Distributor(s):
  • Release Date: 25 October 2013.
  • Running Time: 25 minutes.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

What is a Psychiatric Hospital?

Introduction

Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental health units or behavioural health units, are hospitals or wards specialising in the treatment of serious mental disorders, such as major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Psychiatric hospitals vary widely in their size and grading. Some hospitals may specialise only in short-term or outpatient therapy for low-risk patients. Others may specialise in the temporary or permanent containment of patients who need routine assistance, treatment, or a specialised and controlled environment due to a psychological disorder. Patients often choose voluntary commitment, but those whom psychiatrists believe to pose significant danger to themselves or others may be subject to involuntary commitment and involuntary treatment.

Psychiatric hospitals may also be called psychiatric wards/units (or “psych” wards/units) when they are a subunit of a regular hospital.

The modern psychiatric hospital evolved from and eventually replaced the older lunatic asylum. The treatment of inmates in early lunatic asylums was sometimes brutal and focused on containment and restraint. With successive waves of reform, and the introduction of effective evidence-based treatments, most modern psychiatric hospitals emphasize treatment, and attempt where possible to help patients control their lives in the outside world, with the use of a combination of psychiatric drugs and psychotherapy. Exceptions include Japan, where many psychiatric hospitals still use physical restraints on patients, tying them to their beds for days or even months at a time, and India, where the use of restraint and seclusion is endemic.

Brief History

Modern psychiatric hospitals evolved from, and eventually replaced, the older lunatic asylum. Their development also entails the rise of organised institutional psychiatry.

Hospitals known as bimaristans were built in Persia (old name of Iran) beginning around the early 9th century, with the first in Baghdad under the leadership of the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid. While not devoted solely to patients with psychiatric disorders, they often contained wards for patients exhibiting mania or other psychological distress. Because of cultural taboos against refusing to care for one’s family members, mentally ill patients would be surrendered to a bimaristan only if the patient demonstrated violence, incurable chronic illness, or some other extremely debilitating ailment. Psychological wards were typically enclosed by iron bars owing to the aggression of some of the patients.

Western Europe would later adopt these views with the advances of physicians like Philippe Pinel at the Bicêtre Hospital in France and William Tuke at the York Retreat in England. They advocated the viewing of mental illness as a disorder that required compassionate treatment that would aid in the rehabilitation of the victim. In the Western world, the arrival of institutionalisation as a solution to the problem of madness was very much an advent of the nineteenth century. The first public mental asylums were established in Britain; the passing of the County Asylums Act 1808 empowered magistrates to build rate-supported asylums in every county to house the many ‘pauper lunatics’. Nine counties first applied, the first public asylum opening in 1812 in Nottinghamshire. In 1828, the newly appointed Commissioners in Lunacy were empowered to license and supervise private asylums. The Lunacy Act 1845 made the construction of asylums in every county compulsory with regular inspections on behalf of the Home Secretary, and required asylums to have written regulations and a resident physician.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were a few thousand “sick people” housed in a variety of disparate institutions throughout England, but by 1900 that figure had grown to about 100,000. This growth coincided with the growth of alienism, later known as psychiatry, as a medical specialism. The treatment of inmates in early lunatic asylums was sometimes very brutal and focused on containment and restraint.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, terms such as “madness”, “lunacy” or “insanity” – all of which assumed a unitary psychosis – were split into numerous “mental diseases”, of which catatonia, melancholia and dementia praecox (modern day schizophrenia) were the most common in psychiatric institutions.

In 1961 sociologist Erving Goffman described a theory of the “total institution” and the process by which it takes efforts to maintain predictable and regular behaviour on the part of both “guard” and “captor”, suggesting that many of the features of such institutions serve the ritual function of ensuring that both classes of people know their function and social role, in other words of “institutionalising” them. Asylums was a key text in the development of deinstitutionalisation.

With successive waves of reform and the introduction of effective evidence-based treatments, modern psychiatric hospitals provide a primary emphasis on treatment; and further, they attempt – where possible – to help patients control their own lives in the outside world with the use of a combination of psychiatric drugs and psychotherapy. These treatments can be involuntary. Involuntary treatments are among the many psychiatric practices which are questioned by the mental patient liberation movement. Most psychiatric hospitals now restrict internet access and any device that can take photos. In the US state of Connecticut, involuntary patients must be examined annually by a court-appointed psychiatrist. Patients may also apply for release at any time and receive a full hearing on the application.

Types

There are a number of different types of modern psychiatric hospitals, but all of them house people with mental illnesses of widely variable severity. In the United Kingdom, both crisis admissions and medium-term care are usually provided on acute admissions wards. Juvenile or youth wards in psychiatric hospitals or psychiatric wards are set aside for children or youth with mental illness. Long-term care facilities have the goal of treatment and rehabilitation within a short time-frame (two or three years). Another institution for the mentally ill is a community-based halfway house.

Crisis Stabilisation

The crisis stabilisation unit is effectively an emergency department for psychiatry, often treating suicidal, violent, or otherwise critical individuals.

Open Units

Open psychiatric units are not as secure as crisis stabilisation units. They are not used for acutely suicidal persons; instead, the focus in these units is to make life as normal as possible for patients while continuing treatment to the point where they can be discharged. However, patients are usually still not allowed to hold their own medications in their rooms because of the risk of an impulsive overdose. While some open units are physically unlocked, other open units still use locked entrances and exits, depending on the type of patients admitted.

Medium Term

Another type of psychiatric hospital is medium term, which provides care lasting several weeks. Most drugs used for psychiatric purposes take several weeks to take effect, and the main purpose of these hospitals is to monitor the patient for the first few weeks of therapy to ensure the treatment is effective.

Juvenile Wards

Juvenile wards are sections of psychiatric hospitals or psychiatric wards set aside for children or adolescents with mental illness. However, there are a number of institutions specialising only in the treatment of juveniles, particularly when dealing with drug abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety, depression or other mental illness.

Long-Term Care Facilities

In the UK, long-term care facilities are now being replaced with smaller secure units (some within the hospitals listed above). Modern buildings, modern security, and being locally situated to help with reintegration into society once medication has stabilised the condition are often features of such units. Examples of this include the Three Bridges Unit, in the grounds of St Bernard’s Hospital in West London and the John Munroe Hospital in Staffordshire. However, these modern units have the goal of treatment and rehabilitation to allow for transition back into society within a short time-frame (two or three years). However, not all patients’ treatment can meet this criterion, so the large hospitals mentioned above often retain this role.

These hospitals provide stabilisation and rehabilitation for those who are actively experiencing uncontrolled symptoms of mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, and so on.

Halfway Houses

One type of institution for the mentally ill is a community-based halfway house. These facilities provide assisted living for an extended period of time for patients with mental illnesses, and they often aid in the transition to self-sufficiency. These institutions are considered to be one of the most important parts of a mental health system by many psychiatrists, although some localities lack sufficient funding.

Political Imprisonment

In some countries, the mental institution may be used for the incarceration of political prisoners as a form of punishment. A notable historical example was the use of punitive psychiatry in the Soviet Union and China.

Secure Units

In the UK, criminal courts or the Home Secretary can, under various sections of the Mental Health Act, order the admission of offenders for detainment in a psychiatric hospital, but the term “criminally insane” is no longer legally or medically recognised. Secure psychiatric units exist in all regions of the UK for this purpose; in addition, there are a few specialist hospitals which offer treatment with high levels of security. These facilities are divided into three main categories: High, Medium and Low Secure. Although the phrase “Maximum Secure” is often used in the media, there is no such classification. “Local Secure” is a common misnomer for Low Secure units, as patients are often detained there by local criminal courts for psychiatric assessment before sentencing.

Run by the National Health Service, these facilities which provide psychiatric assessments can also provide treatment and accommodation in a safe hospital environment which prevents absconding. Thus there is far less risk of patients harming themselves or others. The Central Mental Hospital in Dublin performs a similar function

Community Hospital Utilisation

Community hospitals across the United States regularly see mental health discharges. A study of community hospital discharge data from 2003-2011 showed that mental health hospitalisations were increasing for both children (patients aged 0-17 years) and adults (patients aged 18-64). Compared to other hospital utilisation, mental health discharges for children were the lowest while the most rapidly increasing hospitalisations were for adults under 64. Some units have been opened to provide “Therapeutically Enhanced Treatment” and so form a subcategory to the three main unit types.

The general public in the UK are familiar with the names of the High Secure Hospitals due to the frequency that they are mentioned in the news reports about the people who are sent there. Those in the UK include Ashworth Hospital in Merseyside, Broadmoor Hospital in Crowthorne, Berkshire, Rampton Secure Hospital in Retford, Nottinghamshire, and Scotland’s The State Hospital in Carstairs. Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man have their own Medium and Low Secure units but use the mainland facilities for High Secure, to which smaller Channel Islands also transfer their patients as Out of Area (Off-Island Placements) Referrals under the Mental Health Act 1983. Of the three unit types, Medium Secure is most prevalent throughout the UK. As of 2009, there were 27 women-only units in England alone. Irish units include those at prisons in Portlaise, Castelrea and Cork.

Criticism

Hungarian-born psychiatrist Thomas Szasz argued that psychiatric hospitals are like prisons unlike other kinds of hospitals, and that psychiatrists who coerce people (into treatment or involuntary commitment) function as judges and jailers, not physicians. Historian Michel Foucault is widely known for his comprehensive critique of the use and abuse of the mental hospital system in Madness and Civilisation. He argued that Tuke and Pinel’s asylum was a symbolic recreation of the condition of a child under a bourgeois family. It was a microcosm symbolizing the massive structures of bourgeois society and its values: relations of Family-Children (paternal authority), Fault–Punishment (immediate justice), Madness-Disorder (social and moral order).

Erving Goffman coined the term “Total Institution” for mental hospitals and similar places which took over and confined a person’s whole life. Goffman placed psychiatric hospitals in the same category as concentration camps, prisons, military organisations, orphanages, and monasteries. In his book Asylums Goffman describes how the institutionalisation process socialises people into the role of a good patient, someone “dull, harmless and inconspicuous”; in turn, it reinforces notions of chronicity in severe mental illness. The Rosenhan experiment of 1973 demonstrated the difficulty of distinguishing sane patients from insane patients.

Franco Basaglia, a leading psychiatrist who inspired and planned the psychiatric reform in Italy, also defined the mental hospital as an oppressive, locked and total institution in which prison-like, punitive rules are applied, in order to gradually eliminate its own contents. Patients, doctors and nurses are all subjected (at different levels) to the same process of institutionalism. American psychiatrist Loren Mosher noticed that the psychiatric institution itself gave him master classes in the art of the “total institution”: labelling, unnecessary dependency, the induction and perpetuation of powerlessness, the degradation ceremony, authoritarianism, and the primacy of institutional needs over those of the persons whom it was ostensibly there to serve: the patients.

The anti-psychiatry movement coming to the fore in the 1960s has opposed many of the practices, conditions, or existence of mental hospitals; due to the extreme conditions in them. The psychiatric consumer/survivor movement has often objected to or campaigned against conditions in mental hospitals or their use, voluntarily or involuntarily. The mental patient liberation movement emphatically opposes involuntary treatment but it generally does not object to any psychiatric treatments that are consensual, provided that both parties can withdraw consent at any time.

Involuntary Commitment by Country

Introduction

Involuntary commitment or civil commitment is a legal process through which an individual with symptoms of severe mental illness is court-ordered into treatment in a hospital (inpatient) or in the community (outpatient).

Criteria for civil commitment are established by laws, which vary between nations.

Refer to Chronology of UK Mental Health Legislation and Mental Health Tribunal.

United Nations

United Nations General Assembly (resolution 46/119 of 1991), “Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care” is a non-binding resolution advocating certain broadly-drawn procedures for the carrying out of involuntary commitment. These principles have been used in many countries where local laws have been revised or new ones implemented. The UN runs programmes in some countries to assist in this process.

Australia

In Australia, court hearings are not required for involuntary commitment. Mental health law is constitutionally under the state powers. Each state thus has different laws, many of which have been updated in recent years.

Referral for Service

The usual requirement is that a police officer or a physician determine that a person requires a psychiatric examination, usually through a psychiatric hospital. If the person is detained in the hospital, they usually must be seen by an authorised psychiatrist within a set period of time. In some states, after a further set period or at the request of the person or their representative, a tribunal hearing is held to determine whether the person should continue to be detained. In states where tribunals are not instituted, there is another form of appeal.

Some Australian states require that the person is a danger to the society or themselves; other states only require that the person be suffering from a mental illness that requires treatment. The Victorian Mental Health Act (1986) specifies in part that:

(1) A person may be admitted to and detained in an approved mental health service as an involuntary patient in accordance with the procedures specified in this Act only if—
(a) the person appears to be mentally ill; and
(b) the person’s mental illness requires immediate treatment and that treatment can be obtained by admission to and detention in an approved mental health service; and
(c) because of the person’s mental illness, the person should be admitted and detained for treatment as an involuntary patient for his or her health or safety (whether to prevent a deterioration in the person’s physical or mental condition or otherwise) or for the protection of members of the public; and
(d) the person has refused or is unable to consent to the necessary treatment for the mental illness; and
(e) the person cannot receive adequate treatment for the mental illness in a manner less restrictive of that person’s freedom of decision and action.

There are additional qualifications and restrictions but the effect of these provisions is that people who are assessed by doctors as being in need of treatment may be admitted involuntarily without the need of demonstrating a risk of danger. This overcomes the pressure described above to exaggerate issues of violence, or to verbal statements, to obtain an admission.

Treatment

In general, once the person is under involuntary commitment, treatment may be instituted without further requirements. Some treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), often require further procedures to comply with the law before they may be administered involuntarily.

Community treatment orders can be used in the first instance or after a period of admission to hospital as a voluntary/involuntary patient. With the trend towards deinstitutionalisation, this situation is becoming increasingly frequent, and hospital admission is restricted to people with severe mental illnesses.

Finland

Involuntary commitment requires three criteria:

  1. Severe mental illness with impaired insight;
  2. That a lack of treatment would worsen the condition or endanger the safety or security of the patient or others; and
  3. Other treatments or services are insufficient or inapplicable.

If found insane, criminal offenders may not be sentenced. Instead, they must be referred to THL (National Institute for Health and Welfare) for involuntary treatment. Niuvanniemi hospital specialises in involuntary commitment of criminal patients.

France

About 2.4% in of patients in French psychiatric wards are committed involuntarily. A person may be committed if they are an imminent danger or at the request of either a third party, usually a family member or a representative of the state.

  • Classic admission:
    • To involuntarily commit a person, two items are needed: (1) a handwritten request from a third party with a relationship to the person (e.g. a member of the patient’s family or a care giver), excluding care givers working in the institution caring for the sick person, and (2) two supporting medical certificates, at least one of which is drawn up by a doctor outside of the institution giving care to the person.
  • Admission in case of imminent danger:
    • In the case of imminent danger, a single medical certificate drawn up by a doctor who is not part of any establishment caring for the person, suffices to involuntarily commit a person.
  • Admission in case of emergency:
    • A handwritten request from a third party and a medical certificate suffice to involuntarily commit a person.

From an admission at the request of a representative the state to occur, the mentally ill person must a danger to themselves or others, or cause a serious breach of public order, in which case the mayor (temporarily and only when there is a danger to the safety of persons) or the prefect, may issue a decree in support of a medical certificate issued by a doctor outside the receiving institution to admit that person

Germany

In Germany, there is a growing tendency to use the law on legal guardianship instead of mental health law for justification of involuntary commitment or treatment. The ward’s legal guardian decides that he/she must go into mental hospital for treatment, and the police then acts on this decision. This is simpler for the government and family members than the formal process for commitment under mental health laws.

In German criminal law, a person who was convicted of certain crimes can also be sentenced to be kept in preventive detention; see article on preventive detention.

Israel

The Mental Health Care Act of 1991 regulates the rights of the mentally ill in Israel and defines the conditions under which the patient’s freedom of choice can be restricted. The law replaced the Mental Health Law of 1955.

Italy

In Italy the physician Giorgio Antonucci, in his work at the hospitals of Gorizia, Cividale del Friuli and Imola since the late 1960s, has avoided involuntary hospitalisation and any kind of coercion, rejecting the diagnosis as psychiatric prejudice. During the years 1973-1996 he worked on the dismantling of the psychiatric hospitals Osservanza and Luigi Lolli in Imola. He currently collaborates with the Italian branch of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

Japan

In Japan, the Law on mental health and welfare for the mentally disabled (Japanese: 精神保健及び精神障害者福祉に関する法律) establishes the legal framework for involuntary commitment.

Netherlands

In Dutch criminal law, a convict can be sentenced to involuntary psychiatric treatment in a special institute called a ”TBS” clinic. TBS is an abbreviation for ter beschikkingstelling, literally meaning “being placed at disposal” (of the state). Legally, such a sentence is not regarded as punishment like a prison sentence, but as a special measure. Often, when a convict is sentenced to TBS, they first serve a prison sentence. The convict will then be placed in a clinic after serving time in prison (usually two-thirds of the original prison sentence, although this practice is under discussion).

According to Dutch law, meeting three conditions is required for a convict to be sentenced to TBS. These conditions are:

  • The crime committed must have been directly related to a psychiatric disorder,
  • Recidivism must be likely, and
  • The convict can not, or only partially, be held accountable for the crime.

To determine if these conditions are met, the suspect is observed in a forensic psychiatric detention centre, the Pieter Baan Centre. Neither the prosecution or the defence can effectively challenge the Pieter Baan Centre’s report, since it is the only institution that can conduct such investigations. Fatal mistakes have occurred, for instance, when a child molester regarded by the Pieter Baan Centre as “not dangerous” killed a child after the molester was released. The conclusions in the centre’s report are not binding; the judge can decide to ignore, or only partially accept them.

Every convict detained in a TBS clinic may get temporary leave after serving a certain time or after some progress in treatment. This is regarded as an essential part of treatment, as the convict will be gradually re-entering society this way. At first the convict will be escorted by a therapist, and will be allowed outside the clinic for only a few hours. After evaluation, time and freedom of movement will be expanded until the convict can move freely outside the clinic without escort (usually for one day at a time). At that time, the convict will find work or follow an education. Generally, the convict is released after being in this situation for one or two years without incident.

The time to be served in TBS can be indefinite, and it may be used as a form of preventive detention. Evaluation by the court will occur every one or two years. During these evaluations the court determines if any progress is made in treatment of the convict, and if it will be safe to release the convict into society. In general, the court will follow conclusions made by the TBS clinic.

Average time served in a TBS clinic by a convict is slightly over eight years.

Dutch TBS Clinics

In the Netherlands there are currently 12 institutions regarded as TBS clinics:

  • Inforsa/Arkin, Amsterdam.
  • Dr. Henri van der Hoevenstichting, Utrecht.
  • Dr. S. van Mesdagkliniek, Groningen.
  • Hoeve Boschoord, Boschoord.
  • FPC Veldzicht, Balkbrug.
  • Pompestichting, Nijmegen.
  • Oostvaarderskliniek, Almere.
  • De Kijvelanden/FPC Tweelanden, Poortugaal.
  • FPC Oldenkotte, Rekken (Closed on 04 September 2014).
  • FPC De Rooyse Wissel, Venray.
  • GGz Drenthe, Assen.
  • GGz Eindhoven/De Woenselse Poort, Eindhoven.

These institutions combined currently are holding about 1840 convicts.

By the end of the 20th century, it was concluded that some convicts could not be treated and therefore could not be safely released into society. For these convicts, TBS clinics formed special wards, called “long-stay wards”. Transfer to such a ward means that the convict will no longer be actively treated, but merely detained. This is regarded as more cost-effective. In general, the convicts in these wards will be incarcerated for the rest of their lives, although their detention is eligible for regular review by the court.

Controversy

Since the latter half of the 1990s, considerable controversy has grown in Dutch society, about the TBS system. This controversy has two main areas. The first level of controversy resulted from the media increasingly reporting cases of convicts committing crimes while still in, or after, treatment in a TBS clinic.

Some examples of these cases are:

  • During 1992, a truck driver was convicted of raping and murdering three young children.
    • Eight years earlier he was released from a TBS clinic after being treated for child molestation.
  • A convict, about to be released from a TBS clinic, murdered the owner of a garage in 1996 while under the influence of drugs.
  • An ex-convict, treated in a TBS clinic, murdered two women in 1994 and 1997.
  • A convict, still being treated by a TBS-clinic, randomly killed a man in the city of Groningen in 1999.
  • Between 2000 and 2004, an ex-convict tortured several animals and killed a homeless man.
    • He had been treated in a TBS clinic.
  • In 2002 an ex-convict was sentenced for triple murder.
    • He also had been released earlier by TBS.
  • In 2005 a convict escaped his escort during leave.
    • He was arrested several days later after killing a man.

Political and social attention increased, and debate started about the effectiveness of the TBS system and whether convicts should be granted leave from TBS clinics. Especially right-wing politicians suggested the TBS system be discarded altogether. Numerous articles in newspapers, magazines, television and radio programs and a revealing book written by an ex-convict (which for the first time openly questioned the effectiveness of the TBS-system) boosted discussion. Prior to that, any problems had been mostly denied by officials of the TBS-clinics themselves.

The centre of attention became a highly renowned TBS clinic, Dr. S. Van Mesdagkliniek in the city of Groningen. Events that took place there, by the end of the 1990s and the first years of the 21st century, provoked the second reason for controversy. Concern rose about claims of unprofessional behaviour by staff working in TBS clinics, and the Dr. S. Van Mesdagkliniek developed a poor reputation over these problems. This TBS clinic has been plagued with unprofessional and even criminal acts by its staff since 1999.

During that year, the clinic came under investigation by Dutch police after rumours about female staff members committing sexual offenses against convicts emerged. Five such cases were discovered during the investigation, and also numerous cases of drug-abuse, smuggling and trading of contraband such as alcohol, mobile phones, pornographic material, and hard drugs. It became apparent that staff members did not have the required education, had not been informed about rules and regulations, disregarded legal procedures, gave false testimonies, tampered with evidence, uttered false accusations against convicts, and intimidated colleagues. At least one psychiatrist, employed as such by the clinic, proved to be not qualified, and treatment of convicts was in many cases simply non-existent.

These problems had been known for long by the management but were kept hidden. After public outcry about this situation, management was replaced and all of the nine (at the time) TBS clinics in the Netherlands were subjected to investigation. Six of them proved to be below the required legal standards. However, problems did not end there. In spite of many measures taken by the government, convicts still were released without proper treatment. As a consequence, numerous crimes were committed by convicts that were regarded as treated by TBS clinics. Also, sexual offenses against convicts by staff members and smuggling of contraband did not cease in several TBS clinics. In 2006, the Dutch government formed a committee to investigate the TBS system. Some problems, however not the worst[clarification needed], were recognised and countermeasures were implemented. One of the known actual results is that fewer convicts escape during temporary release.

Controversy regarding the, often praised, Dutch TBS system continued. In 2005, a staff member working in the Dr. S. Van Mesdagkliniek was caught smuggling liquor to convicts suffering from alcohol-related problems. In 2007, a female staff member committed sexual offenses against a convict, and had smuggled contraband. She was sentenced to three months in prison in 2009. That same year, investigation proved convicts still had ample access to illicit drugs and four inmates from the Dr. S. Van Mesdagkliniek were arrested for possession of child pornography. Many crimes committed by released convicts treated in TBS clinics escape statistics because the crimes were committed in other countries, or because they differ from the crime the convict was originally convicted for (many convicts released from TBS clinics find their way in illegal drug trade and related crimes). Because there seems to be no acceptable alternative available, political support for the much troubled TBS system remains, in spite of the controversy.

Russia

Individuals in Russia can be involuntarily admitted by psychiatrists directly with an appeal process.

New Zealand

The Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, replaced the previous Act, enacted in 1969. Although there were several reasons to replace the previous act, one key aspect was the lack of review, as once the Reception Order had been made by a District Court judge and two doctors, that the proposed patient be taken to hospital: “Subject to the provisions of this Act, every reception order, whether made before or after the commencement of this Act, shall continue in force until the patient is discharged.” (MHA 1969 s28(2)) Despite the deinstitutionalisation that began in New Zealand during the 1960s, as in many other Western countries, many patients stayed at the psychiatric hospital for years, as the original reception order remained in force. Another reason to review the former act was that patients appeared at the District Court (formerly the Magistrates Court until 1980) – which hears all but the most serious criminal cases. The present Act emphasises that Mental Health Hearings be heard at the Family Court instead, to remove any implication that the patient is being detained in hospital due to a criminal act. It does, however, provide that Mental Health Hearings may take place at the District Court, if there is no other suitable alternative. Often the Family Court will sit at the Mental Health Inpatient Unit.

There are multiple checks and balances built into the present committal procedures. As in the United Kingdom, the process is generally known as “sectioning”.

Section 8A provides that any person, aged 18 or over, who has seen the proposed patient within the last 72 hours, may apply to the Director of Area Mental Health Services (DAMHS), to have that person seen by a psychiatrist, against their wishes. The person must be a danger to themselves or others, or be unable to care for themselves. Section 8B requires that the person be seen by a doctor, preferably their own General Practitioner, to give their opinion as to whether the applicant is correct in their statements about the proposed patient’s behaviour. If the doctor is satisfied, this paperwork is signed, and the process continues to Section 9 where Duly Authorised Officers (DAOs) – operating as agents of the DAMHS, have the power to detain the person for six hours, and during that time, they have the power to transport the proposed patient to the psychiatrist. This is usually at a hospital, but the patient may be seen at a police station, depending on the circumstances. If the proposed patient refuses to accompany them, the Police will assist under the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Police.

Under s10 they are formally interviewed by the psychiatrist, and if they are to be admitted, a s11 is issued that detains the patient for assessment and treatment at an inpatient mental health unit, for up to five days. Following this, a s12 review is held, and if necessary the patient can be held under s13 for fourteen days. At the end of this time, the psychiatrist must apply for a Court Hearing as to whether the patient can be treated compulsorily for any longer. Section 14(4) gives up to fourteen days for the hearing to occur. The detention sections (11, 13, & 14(4)) can be done in the outpatient setting, but in practice, most compulsory patients are detained at a hospital.

Two compulsory treatment orders are available. Section 29 is a Community Treatment Order, and the Act states that this should be applied for.

The patient can only be recalled to hospital twice for two fourteen-day periods in the six months that it lasts.

If a community order is not suitable (for example, due to the risk posed by the patient to themselves or others), a s30 Inpatient Treatment Order can be applied for, where the patient is either in hospital, or on leave from hospital.

In either case, two health professionals must apply to the Family Court – the psychiatrist, backed by a second health professional, usually a registered nurse, sometimes a social worker.

People who have committed a crime while mentally unwell are subject to the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003, although the Mental Health Act also refers to their care. If taken into custody, it is a matter for the Court as to whether they will go to prison and have their mental health issues treated whilst imprisoned, or whether they are “insane” in the legal sense, in which case they are detained at a Forensic Mental Health Unit. These are located at Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. The Acts described provide also for the transfer of patients between prisons and Forensic Mental Health Units, and the reasons for doing this.

New Zealand has found that closing its large country psychiatric hospitals and replacing them with small inpatient units, and a community care model, does not always mean better care. While many people were released who were able to adapt to, and become part of, their communities, some patients were unable to adapt. The current system is not set up for people who require long term closely supervised mental health care.

Singapore

The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act was passed in 2008 to regulate the involuntary detention of a person in a psychiatric institution for the treatment of a mental disorder, or in the interest of the health and safety of the person or the persons around him.

Switzerland

Switzerland has a high proportion of involuntary commitments (German: Zwangzulassung, French: placement forcé) compared to other European countries. Almost 25% of psychiatric patients were admitted involuntarily according to a 2009 study.

The conditions and procedure of involuntary commitments are regulated by Articles 426 to 439 of the Swiss Civil Code.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the process known in the United States as involuntary commitment is informally known as “detaining” or “sectioning,” using various sections of the Mental Health Act 1983 (covering England and Wales), the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 and the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 that provide its legal basis.

In England and Wales, approved mental health professionals have a lead role in coordinating Mental Health Act assessments, which they conduct in cooperation with usually two medical practitioners. Under the Mental Health Act, detention is determined by utility and purpose. Mentally ill individuals may be detained under Section 2 for a period of assessment lasting up to 28 days or Section 3 for a period of treatment lasting up to 6 months (though this period can be renewed). Patients already on a ward may be detained under section 5(2) for up to 72 hours for the purposes of allowing an assessment to take place for Section 2 or 3. Separate sections deal with mentally ill criminal offenders. In all cases detention needs to be justified on the basis that the person has a mental disorder and poses a risk of harm to his/her own health, safety, or the safety of others (as determined by the ‘Approved’ Mental Health Professional(s)). A Section 3 detention can be applied for by the person’s nearest relative or, if the nearest relative agrees, by an approved mental health professional (AMHP). More specifically, according to Article 11 of the Mental Health Act the AMHP can make an application that a person be detained for treatment under section 3 only if the AMHP has consulted the person who appears to be the patient’s nearest relative (unless it is not reasonably practicable or would cause unreasonable delay) and if the nearest relative has not told the AMHP or the LSSA that they object.

Under the amended Mental Health Act 2007, which came into force in November 2008 to be detained under Section 3 for treatment, appropriate treatment must be available in the place of detention. Supervised Community treatment orders signifies that people can be discharged to the community on a conditional basis, remaining liable to recall to hospital if they break the conditions of the community treatment order.

In 2020, as part of the response to COVID-19, Parliament passed the Coronavirus Act 2020 which amends the Mental Health Act to allow for sectioning with the approval of only one medical practitioner.

Refer to Chronology of UK Mental Health Legislation.

United States

State law governs involuntary commitment, and procedures vary from state to state. In some jurisdictions, laws regarding the commitment of juveniles may vary, with what is the de facto involuntary commitment of a juvenile perhaps de jure defined as “voluntary” if his parents agree, though he may still have a right to protest and attempt to get released. However, there is a body of case law governing the civil commitment of individuals under the Fourteenth Amendment through Supreme Court rulings beginning in 1975 with the ruling that involuntary hospitalisation and/or treatment violates an individual’s civil rights in O’Connor v. Donaldson. This ruling forced individual states to change their statutes. For example, the individual must exhibit behaviour that poses a danger to himself or others in order to be held, the hold must be for evaluation only, and a court order must be received for more than very short term treatment or hospitalisation (typically no longer than 72 hours). This ruling has severely limited involuntary treatment and hospitalisation in the US. In the US the specifics of the relevant statutes vary from state to state.

In 1979, Addington v. Texas set the bar for involuntary commitment for treatment by raising the burden of proof required to commit persons from the usual civil burden of proof of “preponderance of the evidence” to the higher standard of “clear and convincing evidence”.

An example of involuntary commitment procedures is the Baker Act used in Florida. Under this law, a person may be committed only if they present a danger to themselves or others. A police officer, doctor, nurse or licensed mental health professional may initiate an involuntary examination that lasts for up to 72 hours. Within this time, two psychiatrists may ask a judge to extend the commitment and order involuntary treatment. The Baker Act also requires that all commitment orders be reviewed every six months in addition to ensuring certain rights to the committed including the right to contact outsiders. Also, a person under an involuntary commitment order has a right to counsel and a right to have the state provide a public defender if they cannot afford a lawyer. While the Florida law allows police to initiate the examination, it is the recommendations of two psychiatrists that guide the decisions of the court.

In the 1990s, involuntary commitment laws were extended under various state laws commonly recognized under the umbrella term, SVP laws, to hold some convicted sex offenders in psychiatric facilities after their prison terms were completed (This is generally referred to as “civil commitment,” not “involuntary commitment,” since involuntary commitment can be criminal or civil). This matter has been the subject of a number of cases before the Supreme Court, most notably Kansas v. Hendricks and United States v. Comstock in regard to the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which does not require a conviction on sex offenses, but only that the person be in federal custody and be deemed a “sexually dangerous person”.

Specific Requirements by State

In Arizona, the government can mandate inpatient treatment for anyone determined to be “persistently or acutely disabled.” Virtually anyone who suspects that someone has mental problems and needs help could file an application to a state-licensed healthcare agency for a court-ordered evaluation.

In Connecticut, someone can be committed only if he or she has “psychiatric disabilities and is dangerous to himself or herself or others or gravely disabled”. “Gravely disabled” has usually been interpreted to mean that the person is unable on their own to obtain adequate food, shelter and clothing.

In Iowa, any “interested person” may begin commitment proceedings by submitting a written statement to the court. If the court finds that the respondent is “seriously mentally impaired,” he or she will be placed in a psychiatric hospital for further evaluation and possibly treatment. Further hearings are required at specific intervals for as long as the person is being involuntarily held.

The Michigan Mental Health Code provides that a person “whose judgment is so impaired that he or she is unable to understand his or her need for treatment and whose continued behaviour as the result of this mental illness can reasonably be expected, on the basis of competent clinical opinion, to result in significant physical harm to himself or herself or others” may be subjected to involuntary commitment, a provision paralleled in the laws of many other jurisdictions. The Michigan Mental Health Code allows for one to petition a court to order assisted outpatient treatment for patients with such impaired judgment, which compels them to comply with treatment to avoid relapses. One can petition for assisted outpatient treatment along with, or instead of, hospitalisation.

In Nevada, prior to confining someone, the state must demonstrate that the person “is mentally ill and, because of that illness, is likely to harm himself or others if allowed his liberty.”

In Oregon, the standard that the allegedly mentally ill person “Peter [h]as been committed and hospitalized twice in the last three years, is showing symptoms or behavior similar to those that preceded and led to a prior hospitalization and, unless treated, will continue, to a reasonable medical probability, to deteriorate to become a danger to self or others or unable to provide for basic needs” may be substituted for the danger to self or others standard.

In Texas, the standard is that, in the judgement of the person seeking involuntary commitment:

  1. The person is mentally ill; and
  2. Because of that mental illness “there is a substantial risk of serious harm to the person or to others unless the person is immediately restrained”.

The Utah standard is that the proposed patient has a mental illness that poses a substantial danger. “Substantial danger” means the person, by his or her behaviour, due to mental illness:

  • (a) Is at serious risk to:
    • (i) commit suicide;
    • (ii) inflict serious bodily injury on himself or herself; or
    • (iii) because of his or her actions or inaction, suffer serious bodily injury because he or she is incapable of providing the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, and shelter;
  • (b) is at serious risk to cause or attempt to cause serious bodily injury; or
  • (c) has inflicted or attempted to inflict serious bodily injury on another.

In Wisconsin, the District II Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that patients with Alzheimer’s disease cannot be involuntary committed under Chapter 51 and can only be involuntarily committed for residential care and custody under Chapter 55. The court left open whether this applies also to persons with a dual diagnosis.

Controversy about Liberty

The impact of involuntary commitment on the right of self-determination has been a cause of concern. Critics of involuntary commitment have advocated that “the due process protections… provided to criminal defendants” be extended to them. The Libertarian Party opposes the practice in its platform. Thomas Szasz and the anti-psychiatry movement have also been prominent in challenging involuntary commitment. The American Association for the Abolition of Involuntary Mental Hospitalisation (AAAIMH) was an organization founded in 1970 by Thomas Szasz, George Alexander, and Erving Goffman for the purpose of abolishing involuntary psychiatric intervention, particularly involuntary commitment, against individuals. The founding of the AAAIMH was announced by Szasz in 1971 in the American Journal of Public Health and American Journal of Psychiatry. The association provided legal help to psychiatric patients and published a journal, The Abolitionist. The organisation was dissolved in 1980.

A small number of individuals in the US have opposed involuntary commitment in those cases in which the diagnosis forming the justification for the involuntary commitment rests, or the individuals say it rests, on the speech or writings of the person committed, saying that to deprive the person of liberty based in whole or part on such speech and writings violates the First Amendment. Other individuals have opposed involuntary commitment on the basis that they claim (despite the amendment generally being held to apply only to criminal cases) it violates the Fifth Amendment in a number of ways, particularly its privilege against self-incrimination, as the psychiatrically examined individual may not be free to remain silent, and such silence may actually be used as “proof” of his “mental illness”.

Although patients involuntarily committed theoretically have a legal right to refuse treatment, refusal to take medications or participate in other treatments is noted by hospital staff. Court reviews usually are heavily weighted toward the hospital staff, with the patient input during such hearings minimal. In Kansas v. Hendricks, the US Supreme Court found that civil commitment is constitutional regardless of whether any treatment is provided.

Alternatives

Accompanying deinstitutionalisation was the development of laws expanding the power of courts to order people to take psychiatric medication on an outpatient basis. Though the practice had occasionally occurred earlier, outpatient commitment was used for many people who would otherwise have been involuntarily committed. The court orders often specified that a person who violated the court order and refused to take the medication would be subject to involuntary commitment.

Involuntary commitment is distinguished from conservatorship and guardianship. The intent of conservatorship or guardianship is to protect those not mentally able to handle their affairs from the effects of their bad decisions, particularly with respect to financial dealings. For example, a conservatorship might be used to take control of the finances of a person with dementia, so that the person’s assets and income are used to meet their basic needs, e.g. by paying rent and utility bills.

Advance psychiatric directives may have a bearing on involuntary commitment.

Examples of Individual State Policies and Procedures

US military

The service member can be held under the so-called Boxer law (DoD Directive 6490.04).

District of Columbia

In the District of Columbia, any police officer, physician, or mental health professional can request to have an individual evaluated at St. Elizabeths Hospital, where they may be detained for up to 48 hours at the direction of the physician on duty. A family member or concerned citizen can also petition the Department of Mental Health, but the claim will be evaluated prior to the police acting upon it. To be held further requires that a request be filed with the Department of Mental Health. However, this only can keep the patient involuntary admitted for up to seven days. For further commitment, the patient is evaluated by a mental health court, part of family court, for which the public defender assists the patient. This can result in the patient being held up to one year at which point the patient returns to mental health court.

This is different for someone first admitted to St. Elizabeths Hospital due to criminal charges. If found to not ever become competent for trial, they will be evaluated via a Jackson hearing for possible continued commitment to protect the public. If they have been found not guilty by reason of insanity, their dangerousness is evaluated at a Bolton Hearing.

Maryland

In Maryland, any person may request, via an Emergency Evaluation form, that another individual be evaluated against their will by an emergency room physician for involuntary admission. If the judge concurs, he will direct the police to escort the individual to the hospital. A licensed physician, psychologist, social worker, or nurse practitioner who has examined the patient or a police officer may bring a potential patient to the emergency room for forced evaluation without approval from a judge. The patient may be kept in the hospital for up to thirty hours. If by then two physicians, or one physician and one psychologist then decide that the patient meets the Maryland criteria for an involuntary psychiatric admission, then he or she may be kept inpatient involuntarily for up to ten days. During this time, an administrative law judge determines if the following criteria for longer civil commitment are met:

  • A person has a mental illness;
  • A person needs inpatient care or treatment;
  • A person presents a danger to themselves or to others;
  • A person is unable or unwilling to be admitted voluntarily; and
  • There is no available, less restrictive form of care or treatment to meet the person’s needs.

Texas

In Texas a person may be subject to involuntary commitment by:

  • A peace officer, without a warrant, if A) the officer believes that 1) the person is mentally ill, 2) because of that mental illness “there is a substantial risk of serious harm to the person or to others unless the person is immediately restrained”, and B) the officer also believes that there is insufficient time to obtain a warrant.
  • A guardian of the person of a ward under the age of 18, if the guardian believes that 1) the ward is mentally ill, 2) because of that mental illness “there is a substantial risk of serious harm to the ward or to others unless the ward is immediately restrained”.
  • An adult may file an application for emergency detention of another person; the application must meet seven outlined items which indicate that, in the applicant’s belief, that the person to be detained is mentally ill and poses a threat to the person or to others, why the person considers this to be the case, and the relationship of the applicant to the person.

A person cannot be held for more than 48 hours, and must be released by 4:00 pm on the day the 48-hour period ends, unless:

  • A written order for protective custody is obtained;
  • The 48-hour period ends on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, or before 4:00 pm on the first succeeding business day (in which case the person may only be held until 4:00 pm on the first succeeding business day); or
  • If extremely hazardous weather events exist or a disaster occurs (in which case, the period may be extended in 24-hour increments by written order specifically stating the weather event or disaster).

Upon release, unless the person was arrested or objects, the person (at the expense of the county where s/he was apprehended) must be transported to either 1) the place where s/he was apprehended, 2) the person’s residence in the state, or 3) another suitable location.

Virginia

As of 2008, Virginia was one of only five states requiring imminent danger to involuntarily commit someone. But after the Virginia Tech Massacre, there was significant political consensus to strengthen the protections for society and allow more leniency in determining that an individual needed to be committed against their will.

  • The person has a mental illness and there is a substantial likelihood that, as a result of mental illness, the person will, in the near future, (1) cause serious physical harm to himself or others as evidenced by recent behaviour causing, attempting, or threatening harm and other relevant information, if any.
  • The person has a mental illness and there is a substantial likelihood that, as a result of mental illness, the person will, in the near future, (2) suffer serious harm due to his lack of capacity to protect himself from harm or to provide for his basic human needs.

“Imminent danger” was found to have too much variability throughout Virginia due to vagueness. The new standard is more specific in that substantial likelihood is more clear. However, to not limit potential detainee’s freedoms too much it is characterized by the time limit of near future. “Recent acts” is legally established to require more than a mere recitation of past events.