125 reasons you’ll get sent to the lunatic asylum

Posted by | December 4, 2008

West Virginia Hospital for the Insane, Weston WV
Weston Hospital in Lewis County, WV, officially named the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane upon completion of the facility shown here in 1880, was typical of the many that were established throughout the country. Its design reflected the Kirkbride plan in action.

Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride’s theory centered on what he referred to as the “moral treatment” of the insane, a constructive idea unique to the United States, for mental asylums from the mid to late 19th century.

He advocated moving patients from overcrowded city jails and almshouses, where patients were often chained to walls in cold dark cells, to a rural environment with grounds that were “tastefully ornamented” and buildings arranged “en echelon” resembling a shallow V if viewed from above.

This design called for long, rambling wings, that provided therapeutic sunlight and air to comfortable living quarters so that the building itself promoted a curative effect, or as Kirkbride put it, “a special apparatus for lunacy.” These facilities were designed to be entirely self-sufficient, providing the patients with a variety of outlets for stimulating mental and physical activities.

The Kirkbride plan influenced the construction of over 300 similar facilities throughout North America, some of which were designed by such luminaries as H. H. Richardson, Richard Snowden Andrews, and Fredrick Law Olmstead.

And what constituted insanity to West Virginia authorities in the late Victorian era? Marjorie E. Carr published a pamphlet in 1993, now in the Weston Hospital Collection at the West Virginia Archives and History, that tells the history of Weston. Her pamphlet includes the following from the first log book used at Weston (spelling & punctuation left as in the original):

REASONS FOR ADMISSION
WEST VIRGINIA HOSPITAL FOR THE INSANE (WESTON)
OCTOBER 22, 1864 to DECEMBER 12, 1889

Amenorrhea
Asthma
Bad company
Bad habits & political excitement
Bad whiskey
Bite of a rattle snake
Bloody flux
Brain fever
Business nerves
Carbonic acid gas
Carbuncle
Cerebral softening
Cold
Congetion of brain
Constitutional
Crime
Death of sons in the war
Decoyed into the army
Deranged masturbation
Desertion by husband
Diptheria
Disappointed affection
Disappointed love
Disappointment
Dissipation of nerves

Dissolute habits
Dog bite
Domestic affliction
Domestic trouble
Douby about mother’s ancestors
Dropsy
Effusion on the brain
Egotism
Epileptic fits
Excessive sexual abuse
Excitement as officer
Explosion of shell nearby
Exposure & hereditary
Exposure & quackery
Exposure in army
Fall from horse
False confinement
Feebleness of intellect
Fell from horse
Female disease
Fever
Fever & loss of law suit
Fever & nerved
Fighting fire
Fits & desertion of husband

Gastritis
Gathering in the head
Greediness
Grief
Gunshot wound
Hard study
Hereditary predisposition
Ill treatment by husband
Imaginary female trouble
Immoral life
Imprisonment
Indigestion
Intemperance
Interferance
Jealousy
Jealousy & religion
Kick of horse
Kicked in the head by a horse
Laziness
Liver and social disease
Loss of arm
Marriage of son
Masturbation & syphillis
Masturbation for 30 years
Medicine to prevent conception

Menstrual deranged
Mental excitement
Milk fever
Moral sanity
Novel reading
Nymphomania
Opium habit
Over action on the mind
Over heat
Over study of religion
Over taxing mental powers.
Parents were cousins
Pecuniary losses: worms
Periodical fits
Political excitement
Politics
Puerperal
Religious enthusiasm
Religious excitement
Remorse
Rumor of husband’s murder or desertion
Salvation army
Scarlatina
Seduction
Seduction & dissappointment

Self abuse
Severe labor
Sexual abuse and stimulants
Sexual derangement
Shooting of daughter
Smallpox
Snuff
Snuff eating for two years
Softening of the brain
Spinal irritation
Sun stroke
Sunstroke
Superstition
Supressed masturbation
Supression of menses
Tabacco & masturbation: hysteria
The war
Time of life
Trouble
Uterine derangement
Venerial excesses
Vicious vices in early life
Women
Women trouble
Young lady & fear

Sources: http://www.trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com/main/history3.html
http://www.lindapages.com/marshall/mental.htm
http://www.wvculture.org/HISTORY/collections/ms2008-085.html

mental+health+issues West+Virginia+Hospital+for+the+Insane Lewis+County+WV Thomas+Story+Kirkbride appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

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