Mental Health Community in the 19th Century

671 Words2 Pages

Mental Health Community in the 19th Century

Mental health is a relevant issue in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Not only is Kurtz’ mental health questionable throughout the novel, but Marlow also has to be examined by a physician, to check both his physical and mental status, before he starts on the journey to Africa. The mental health community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was not nearly as developed as it is today, but many developments during this time period had a profound impact on the way we analyze the human psyche and mental health today.

Mental health patients were considered innately inferior and treated as the weaker portion of the human race due to the prevailing dominant theory of Social Darwinism in the 1800s. They were put in mental asylums, where conditions had deteriorated substantially from earlier in the century. (Floyd) The public’s interest about the unsatisfactory care of the mentally ill, championed by Dorothea Dix, led to some reforms, such as higher medical standards, more oversight into asylum practices, and more research into mental health. (Floyd) Nevertheless, the status of the mentally ill did not elevate much higher, and by the 1890s the repeated failure of asylum therapy convinced most that insanity and mental illness was incorrigible. Finding no alternatives, however, patients continued to be sent to asylums to attempt to cure them as much as to isolate them from the rest of society. (Roberts) Unfortunately, people also began to fear the proliferation of the mentally ill. When sterilization became considered, unrealistic, more, cheaper asylums were built as a means of segregated them and preventing an increase in their numbers. (Roberts)


... middle of paper ...

...h Care. 6 Oct. 2002 l_health_care.asp>

Floyd, Barbara. From Quackery to Bacteriology. University of Toledo. 6 Oct. 2002 <>

Mills, Val. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) 6 Oct. 2002 <>

Mustard, Ronnie. Listings: the history of mental health. 6 Oct. 2002 <>.

Roberts, Andrew. Mental Health History Timeline. 6 Oct. 2000 <>.

Sabbatini, Renato M.E. “The History of Psychosurgery” June/August 1997. Brain & Mind Magazine. 14 Jun.1997. State University of Campinus, Brazil. 6 Oct. 2002>

Open Document