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Mental Health Treatments Then And Now




Source: theatlantic.com


In America, many people are significantly afflicted by mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that there is one out of five Americans who are diagnosed with a mental health condition every year. Overall, that would make about 44 million Americans or approximately 18% of the whole population. Additionally, nearly 15% of children between 8 and 15 experience severe mental health disorder once or twice in their lives. Because of this data, perceptions and views of people have fortunately changed towards the positive nowadays, although undoubtedly stigma still endures up until today. However, psychologists and other mental health professionals agree that more and more people now see a link between mental illness and mental well-being, one’s capacity to be functional at home or work, and we perceive the world and our lives today. Perhaps this is because of the holistic care and the community-driven approaches that are being introduced around mental health.


This wasn’t the situation years ago, though. Mental health treatments have gone through many transitions through the years, with some techniques being inefficient and even life-threatening. The History Cooperative describes these previous treatments as ‘sensational discoveries’ or ‘pathological sciences’ instead of being advantageous to the patients. Below are a few of history’s oddest mental health treatments, which are undeniably so different from the procedures now.


Obsolete Mental Health Treatments

Trephination. This is done by removing part or parts of a skull with a bore, saw, or an auger. Trephination is one of the oldest forms of treatments for mental health, as the records show that this practice existed some 7000 years prior. It may have been indicated for pain relief, mental health conditions, or even for the cure of demonic possession. There is little information about this practice.

Isolation. Seclusion was a preferable treatment for mental disorders during medieval times, which explains why those eerie asylums became popular during the 17th century. Asylums and institutions that were similar to asylums were a major choice for mental disorder cure, but also to separate the patients from their families and communities. These places were not kept clean, though, and poor sanitation was a very serious issue. Soon, movements and anti-asylum groups emerged to improve healthcare awareness and cleanliness. It was also during this time when patients succumbed to ice water baths and tortures inside the asylums.

Source: buzznick.com

Insulin Coma Treatment. Introduced in 1927, this form of therapy was utilized for a few decades, up until the 60s. The process involved the physician placing the patient into a low-blood sugar coma, as they believed that large changes in one’s insulin levels could substantially alter brain function. This coma-induced therapy can last up to 4 hours. These patients are injected with insulin to the point that they go into a coma due to low blood sugar levels. The risks, which included prolonged coma and high mortality rates, outweighed the benefits, and this therapy was later replaced by electroconvulsive therapy, which was a relatively safer procedure.

Purging And Bloodletting. This practice originated from the Greeks, although it also became popular in the Western regions in the 1600s. Claudius Galen believed that illness and disease were rooted in an imbalance of humor in the body. Additionally, English doctor Thomas Willis used Galen’s principles to treat their mental disorder patients during that time. He said that there was an existing biochemical relationship behind these mental disorders and that purging, bleeding, and even vomiting were practices that would help alter these imbalances and recover from the mental illness. But then these practices were not only utilized for mental health treatments but asthma, diabetes, cholera, stroke, smallpox, and cancer as well. Bloodletting was the most predominant treatment, where leeches were placed on the skin to do blood suction.

Lobotomy. This now outdated procedure won the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology in the year 1949. Its purpose was to interrupt the brain circuits and cause positive changes to one’s mental health. However, lobotomy posed many serious risks, and so it was only prescribed for more severe cases of mental conditions. The procedure involved surgically removing or separating the connections between the frontal and prefrontal lobes of the brain. Surprisingly, the procedure can be done in five minutes. Although there were reports of positive outcomes, these came with accompanying impairments, which led to its discontinued practice within the 1950s, just as psychiatric medications were introduced.


Today’s Mental Health Therapy

Source: cce.assumption.edu

As more and more information about the causes, symptoms, and other details about the different mental disorders, the mental health network is continually developing newer, safer, and more efficient treatments to replace the outdated and dangerous practices. Currently, individuals with diagnosed or undiagnosed mental problems are taking advantage of high-quality treatments along with psychotherapy and other psychological therapies that have helped improve mental health care to tremendous levels. These treatments and therapies will continue to change and transition, along with research and scientific developments. Ultimately, mental health professionals will have more extensive knowledge and gain more insight into the mental health world.



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