Seminars on Mental Health, Glasgow: Dr Louise Hide and Prof. John Foot, Wed 10th Feb

By happy coincidence, the seminar papers in the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare Series and Strathclyde School of Humanities Research Seminar Series on Wednesday 10th February both examine dimensions of post-war psychiatry. Details as follows:

1pm in room W308, Hamish Wood Building, Glasgow Caledonian University

Dr Louise Hide (Birkbeck, University of London): ‘Mixing the Sexes. new Therapeutic Spaces in English Psychiatric Hospitals from the 1950s to 1990s’ 

During the 1950s, the old Victorian asylum system finally reached its nadir. Around 150,000 resident patients lived in appalling conditions. Overcrowding was out of control. Staff morale was low. Abuse and corruption were rife. And the institutionalisation of long-stay patients who lived in rigidly segregated wards was a major problem.

In 1955, Dr Denis V. Martin, the Superintendent of Claybury Hospital, embarked on an experiment in an attempt to counter some of the effects of institutionalisation. He opened two villas where, unusually, doors remained unlocked and male and female patients were allowed to mix freely with each other. This is an example of some of the practices that were beginning to evolve from new psychosocial ideas that aimed to create therapeutic environments inside psychiatric hospitals, thus breaking down some of the traditional hierarchical power structures — doctor, nurse, patient. Following the 1959 Mental Health Act that signalled the beginning of the closure of the asylum system, they became an increasingly common feature of the rehabilitation process.

In this paper I will be exploring the underlying social, economic, political and medical conditions that led to the desegregation of sexes in psychiatric wards. To what degree, for example, did the new psychotropic drugs facilitate these first moves? What was the underlying influence of the new ‘permissive’ society and the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s? How did patients and nursing staff respond to these changes? How did mixed-sex environments change as long-stay patients were moved into the community? And did the call to revert to single-sex wards mean it was all a terrible mistake?

4pm, Confucius Room, Lord Hope Building, Strathclyde University

Professor John Foot (Bristol University): ‘Negated Institutions. The Revolution in Italian Mental Health Care in the 1960s and 1970s’.

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