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A Mind That Found Itself: An Autobiography

Creator: Clifford Whittingham Beers (author)
Date: 1910
Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co., New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

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Page 104:


"'I want to thank you again for setting me right in regard to my husband's position at the hospital. Since my interview with you I have experienced the only peace of mind I have known in months. Your explanations relieved my anxieties and dispelled my prejudices to such an extent that a great burden has been lifted from me. If only I had consulted you long ago I should have avoided the many mistakes I have made and been spared much unhappiness.'


"In a later interview this woman remarked: 'I believe I should have suffered a nervous or mental collapse had not my mind been relieved from worry when it was. I am now able to secure restful sleep, something I hadn't enjoyed for weeks prior to my first interview.'


"This case is especially interesting in that it fairly represents the value of assistance that may be given to thousands of people in this country whose relatives are classed among the incurable insane. The burden of worry which this woman was carrying before her unfounded fears were dispelled, was one which thousands similarly situated must continue to bear, until a way has been found to place before them the comparatively simple instructions and advice they so greatly need. Such a way has been found in Connecticut. This Society and the hospitals are to serve as agencies of enlightenment.


"No. 3. Men whose wives are patients in hospitals for the insane are also in need of advice and encouragement, especially men of the day-laboring class who so often have to give up their homes when their wives are removed to the hospital. A case of this sort has recently been brought to the attention of the Society. The husband has had difficulty in maintaining a home for his two children -- a boy and a girl, aged ten and six years respectively. Several talks with a member of the Social Service Committee, and a visit to the hospital in which his wife is a patient (made possible by a small loan from the Society, since repaid), served to overcome the disturbing fears which long had oppressed this man. A most pathetic feature of the case is that the two young children at home have no one to care for them during the day, though the father spends as much time with them as possible for one who has to earn money for their support. That it is not only the older relatives of a Patient who worry is shown most convincingly by a letter sent to the Executive Secretary of this Society by the ten-year-old son of the patient, in behalf of himself and his sister. In this pathetic bit of evidence of the need that exists for Social Service the following sentences appear:


"'I have received a letter saying that my mama is alright.' (Of course the letter was written by his mother, who, like most patients, considered herself well enough to return home.) 'I wish you would be kind enough to bring her home to us papa is gone to Bridgeport for the next to days. Kindly Let me no what you can do for us. I will pay the expences out of my on saving money.'


"When this Society adds to its staff of workers -- as it plans to do -- a woman who has had experience in Social Service work, it will become possible to help 'mother' these children and many others in this State who are similarly situated.


"Will you qualify as a member of the Society, or as a contributor, and help to increase its power for good in the community?


(Signed) Clifford W. Beers,
Executive Secretary."








Read at State Board of Insanity Conference, State Bouse, Boston, Massachusetts, May 17, 1904.


WHILE a certain proportion of the human family must have suffered from mental disorders for ages past, it is only about one hundred years since the propriety of controlling insane persons by the aid of manacles, shackles, chains, ropes, straps, etc., was especially called into question. At this stage of the world's progress, it is difficult for one to comprehend those former-day doctrines of philosophy, religion and ethics which overpowered or distorted human sensibilities to such a degree that compassion for the afflicted insane had little, if any weight in deciding what measures should be employed in their treatment; while a vague mysterious horror, or fear of the disease, readily suggested to friends or custodians barbarous antagonism to its manifestations. During the political and social upheaval of the French Revolution, but quite aside from any design on the part of the revolutionary actors, that great moral genius, Philippe Pinel, was appointed superintendent of the Bicetre, the great Paris asylum for incurable insane men. When Pinel entered the asylum with M. Couthon, a member of the Commune, they were greeted, it is said, "by the yells and exclamations of three hundred maniacs, who mingled the clanking of their chains with the uproar of their voices."


This horrible condition of things had existed indefinitely without a recorded protest from political officials, church authorities, or friendly philanthropists. Public opinion had come to regard such conditions as inevitable, and yet we all know to-day that the shocking features of that gloomy Paris prison asylum were due entirely to ignorance, and "man's inhumanity to man." Pinel alone held such an opinion at that time, and when he requested permission of the government to do away with "the chains, iron cages and brutal keepers" he was generally regarded as a reckless visionary, almost an insane man himself. Nevertheless, he removed the chains from some fifty men at once, and the others subsequently, without a resulting accident or untoward event. Owing, no doubt, in part to unsettled political conditions in France at that time, this epoch-marking, dramatic incident in the world's progress of humanity was not widely known or duly appreciated until after many years had elapsed. Meantime an English Quaker, William Tuke, becoming sorely distressed with the depleting and repressive methods to which the insane in the government asylums of Great Britain were subjected, founded at York, England, and at his own expense, a hospital for the insane where lunatics would be treated as sick people, and where gentleness and patience would, under all conditions, be exercised towards them.

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