Today in Mental Health History —> Today in 1773 America’s first insane asylum opens.
This was Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia, originally known as “The Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds”.
It was originally brutal:
Though the aim was noble, the practices were brutal by modern standards. Bleeding, bullying, blistering salves, and electrocution were all standard treatments. This was changed under the supervision of Dr. John Galt, who believed the mentally ill were entitled to dignity and could be reintegrated with society.
Galt also knew that just because the patients were crazy didn’t mean they weren’t witty. It is said that when hospital sponsor John D. Rockefeller strolled through the grounds and introduced himself to an inmate, the inmate replied, “Oh sure. And I’m Napoleon Bonaparte.” Thanks to a donation from Rockefeller, the hospital was moved about 3 miles west to Dunbar Farms, to accommodate its large patient population.