Athens Lunatic Asylum

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As we continue our journey into the asylums of long ago, I feel compelled to speak a bit about the state of mental health care today. De-institutionalization was enacted by President Ronald Regan in the 1980s, releasing many patients who were functional yet still had the need for more assistance in the outside world. This assistance did not come easily and in some cases, never came at all. The conditions in many of these hospitals were awful and the treatments barbaric–and yet to many of the patients, it was far more frightening when they were turned out of the only home they ever knew. The system is far from being perfect, even in today’s modern age. The mentally ill continue to face much ignorance-based prejudice and state hospitals are still crowded and understaffed. We’ve changed the language to make it all sound better when the first step should have been to actually work to make it better.
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Kirkbride Buildings

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Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride’s method of treatment for mental illness was to provide humane treatment for patients on sprawling hospital grounds which would restore sanity to a damaged mind. He also believed that “the number of patients in any situation should never exceed the number (of patients) whom the superintendent could know intimately.” This method of treatment became known as the Kirkbride Plan and the sprawling, hospitals which were erected to bolster this idea have become known as Kirkbride Buildings.
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The Kirkbride Plan

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Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride

Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride (1870)

If you ever deign to look up information on old asylums, you’re bound to come across the term “Kirkbride Plan”. The Kirkbride Plan was a way to treat mental illness by providing more humane treatment to patients. This would require a sprawling hospital facility and vast grounds. The idea was that if the insane were in a relaxed environment, away from large populations and problems, that sanity would be restored to those who’d lost it. This idea was nice, but somewhat unrealistic in lieu of more modern knowledge surrounding mental health. The author of the Kirkbride Plan was the influential Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride (or, as I like to call him– “Eyebrow”).
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